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Walnuts and Walnut Products May Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Walnuts have been shown in previous studies to lower cholesterol, thereby potentially reducing the risk of heart disease. A recent study investigated the mechanism behind these properties, and found that walnut oil improves vascular health and whole walnuts help HDL ("good") cholesterol more effectively transport and remove excess cholesterol.

The study included 15 overweight or obese participants with high cholesterol. Each individual participated in one of four interventions:

1. 85 grams of whole walnuts;

2. 6 grams of walnut skin;

3. 34 grams of defatted walnut meat;

4. 51 grams of walnut oil.

After administering the intervention, the researchers measured biochemical and physiological responses of the participants at the 30 minute, one hour, two hour, four hour, and six hour mark,. The process was then repeated until each individual had undergone all four interventions.

After analyzing the data, the researchers determined that the oil component in walnuts specifically aided in endothelial function and improved vascular health. The whole walnuts helped HDL cholesterol better remove excess cholesterol from the body.

The researchers believe that these positive effects are a result of the high levels of alpha-linolenic-acid (ALA) omega-3s, gamma-tocopherol (a type of vitamin E), and phytosterols found in walnuts.

Researchers from Penn States conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on April 24, 2013, in the Journal of Nutrition.

Previous research has found that the health benefits of walnuts include improving heart health and brain health. These benefits are a result of their antioxidant and ant-inflammatory properties. Walnuts are also a great source of protein and are rich in fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants such as Vitamin E.

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