Walnuts linked to heart health improvements

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 27th June 2019

The humble walnut has been officially recognised as heart-healthy following research undertaken at the University of Wollongong, which has shown that nut consumption is associated with improvements in heart health measures such as blood cholesterol. 

The systematic review confirmed the favourable effects of walnut consumption on the heart disease risk factors of total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and the ratio of LDL to high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is often a key indicator of heart disease risk. 

University of Wollongong’s Dr Elizabeth Neale states, “Our research combines the results of many scientific studies, showing that nut consumption is associated with the reduced risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, with no adverse effects on body weight. 

“The review demonstrates that walnuts are a heart-healthy food, given the benefits to blood cholesterol levels and the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol in the body. 

“We know that nut consumption in Australia falls short of the recommended 30g serve per day, and with heart disease growing at a rapid rate in this country, the research findings support adding a handful of nuts, such as walnuts, to your day,” she said. 

Other reviews support the findings of Dr Elizabeth Neale and her colleagues; one particular study by Guash-Ferre et al, investigated the relationship between specific nut types and cardiovascular outcomes and found that consuming walnuts was associated with a 29% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular events. 

Further, a systematic review and meta-analysis by Guash-Ferre et al concluded that incorporating walnuts into the diet improved blood lipid profiles without adversely affecting blood pressure or weight.

Another study, which formed part of the review by the University of Wollongong,by Sabate et al, found that replacing a portion of the fat in a cholesterol-lowering diet with walnuts further lowers serum cholesterol levels by more than 10% in normal men. Compared to the control diet, the walnut diet showed a reduction of 12.4% in total cholesterol; and 16.3% in LDL cholesterol.

The Sabate study was just one of almost 150 studies that were assessed as part of the review, which examined the link between nut consumption and cardiovascular health, indicating that a regular intake of nuts is associated with improvements in heart health indicators. 

It is thought that Walnuts are a particularly heart-healthy nut as they offer one of the highest plant sources of Omega 3s and antioxidants, and are also rich in bioactive components including polyphenols, carotenoids, phytosterols, fibre and minerals.* 

Regularly consuming a handful of walnuts – just 30g – has also been found to offset inflammatory effects within the body, keeping blood vessels and walls healthy, which prevents the hardening of arteries.* Walnuts are also a great protein choice for vegetarians as they are one of only a few sources of plant-based omego-3 fatty acids, which helps lower ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and increase production of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL). In addition to their antioxidant properties, walnuts are also rich in the ‘good’ unsaturated fats, which help lower cholesterol and, along with fibre, keep us feeling fuller for longer to aid weight management.* 

With such a range of potential health benefits, there’s no reason not to bump up your walnut intake. A delicious handful on the go is an obvious way to work these super nuts into your diet, however walnuts also offer texture, flavour and versatility to any meal of the day, from spreading walnut butter on your morning toast or blending them into your favourite smoothies, to blitzing walnuts into a vibrant pesto or baking them into healthy snacks and treats.