Nutty Way to Heart Health

By George Leposky

Eating walnuts appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, according to a recently published review of scientific literature.

The author, Elaine B. Feldman, M.D., of the Medical College of Georgia, says studies have shown that walnuts decrease the level of fatty substances in the blood that form plaques inside the blood vessels, a condition called atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. A heart attack occurs when atherosclerotic plaques narrow and eventually block the coronary arteries, obstructing the flow of blood and vital nutrients to the heart muscle.

“Daily intake of ¼ - ½ cup of walnuts (48 to 84 grams) lowered low density lipoprotein cholesterol with little effect on high density lipoprotein cholesterol and had other beneficial effects on blood lipids, all of which have been shown in numerous other studies to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease," Dr. Feldman says.

Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol has been termed “bad” cholesterol because elevated levels of LDL are related to plaque formation. High density lipoprotein cholesterol, on the other hand, is considered to be “good” cholesterol because high levels of HDL are associated with a lower risk of plaque formation.

Fatty Acid Content Also Helps

Dr. Feldman also notes that walnuts are the only nuts that contain omega - and omega - polyunsaturated fatty acids, which tend to lower the level of triglycerides, another class of blood fats. High triglyceride levels in the blood also are thought to promote plaque formation.

Comments Artemis P. Simopoulos, M.D., president of  The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health and author of The Omega Diet, "Compared to most other nuts, which contain monounsaturated fatty acids, walnuts are unique because they have a perfect balance of - (linoleate) and - (linolenate) polyunsaturated fatty acids, a ratio of 4:1 which has been shown to decrease the risk of sudden death in the Lyon Heart Study."

Good News for Dieters

Source: Diamond of California

Another piece of good news is that walnuts aren’t fattening. If you replace other foods in your diet with walnuts, you aren’t likely to gain weight, according to the studies that Dr. Feldman reviewed.

Her article summarizes the results of five controlled, peer-reviewed clinical dietary-intervention trials involving about 200 people who statistically represent U.S. adults with a coronary heart-disease risk.

Entitled “The Scientific Evidence for a Beneficial Health Relationship Between Walnuts and Coronary Heart Disease,” the article appears in the May 2002  issue of The Journal of Nutrition, published by the American Society for Nutritional Sciences.

The review on which the article is based was conducted by the Life Sciences Research Office, an independent, non-profit organization that conducts peer-reviewed scientific reviews, prepares expert documents, and manages scientific meetings (http://www.lsro.org). The review was conducted according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines for assessing data for health claims (the relationship between a food substance and a disease or health-related condition).

George Leposky is editor of Ampersand Communications, a news-features syndicate based in Miami, Florida.

© Ampersand Communications

For More Information

California Walnut Commission, Walnut Marketing Board - http://www.webcom.com/walnut/

Diamond of California - http://www.diamondwalnut.com

The Journal of Nutrition - http://www.nutrition.org/

Life Sciences Research Office - http://www.lsro.org

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