Eating a handful of walnuts or taking a few ounces of walnut oil during or following meals can help regulate healthy cholesterol metabolism and protect against cardiovascular disease. These are the findings of a new study conducted by researchers from Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in State College, who found that the oil component of walnuts is particularly effective at promoting good vascular health.
In a small, randomized-controlled trial that included 15 participants with elevated blood cholesterol levels, Professor Penny Kris-Etherton and her colleagues administered one of four walnut-based treatments to compare outcomes. These treatments included either 85 grams (about three ounces) of whole walnuts, six grams of walnut skins, 34 grams of defatted walnut nutmeat, or 51 grams of walnut oil.
Researchers evaluated the biochemical and physiological responses of each participant taking one of the four treatments both before administering them, and again at 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, four hours, and six hours after administering them. The findings, which were published online in the Journal of Nutrition prior to the publishing of the journal’s June print issue, illustrate that not only do walnuts and walnut oil help promote the healthy transport and metabolism of cholesterol in the body, but they also boost levels of high-density lipoprotein, or the so-called “good” cholesterol.
“Our study showed that the oil found in walnuts could maintain blood vessel function after a meal, which is very important given that blood vessel integrity is often compromised in individuals with cardiovascular disease,” says Claire Berryman, a graduate student of nutritional sciences at PSU. “The walnut oil was particularly good at preserving the function of endothelial cells, which play an important role in cardiovascular health.”
Walnuts help ease high blood pressure and inflammation
One of the primary ways by which walnuts appear to help regulate the synthesis and metabolism of cholesterol is their ability to ease the inflammation responsible for cholesterol buildup in the arteries. A 2004 study also published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the alpha-linolenic acid content in walnuts helps quell not only inflammation but also a number of other lipid cardiovascular risk factors linked to heart disease.
Various other studies have also found that eating walnuts help to lower high blood pressure and reduce the overall risk of coronary heart disease for both men and women. And since walnuts have been shown to contain one of the most diverse arrays of antioxidant nutrients of any known nut, they can also be an effective preventive remedy for avoiding cancer.
“Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts,” claims Dr. Joe Vinson, Ph.D., who conducted an analysis back in 2011 that was presented at the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). “A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut.”
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