Eat nuts to improve cholesterol levels
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Eating a handful of nuts a day is associated
with improvements in blood cholesterol levels, researchers say.
The pooled analysis of data from 25 trials has been reported in the May 10 issue
of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
`Dietary interventions to lower blood cholesterol concentrations and to modify
blood lipoprotein levels are the cornerstone of prevention and treatment plans
for coronary heart disease,` the authors write as background information in the
article. `Recently, consumption of nuts has been the focus of intense research
because of their potential to reduce coronary heart disease risk and to lower
blood lipid [fat and cholesterol] levels based on their unique nutritional
Nuts are rich in plant proteins, fats (especially unsaturated fatty acids),
dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and other compounds, such as antioxidants and
Joan Sabaté, M.D., Dr.P.H., of Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, Calif., and
colleagues pooled primary data from 25 nut consumption trials conducted in seven
countries and involving 583 women and men with high cholesterol or normal
cholesterol levels. All the studies compared a control group to a group assigned
to consume nuts; participants were not taking lipid-lowering medications.
Participants in the trials consumed an average of 67 grams (about 2.4 ounces) of
nuts per day. This was associated with an average 5.1 percent reduction in total
cholesterol concentration, a 7.4 percent reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL,
or `bad` cholesterol) and an 8.3 percent change in ratio of LDL cholesterol to
high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good" cholesterol). In addition, triglyceride
levels declined by 10.2 percent among individuals with high triglyceride levels
(at least 150 milligrams per deciliter), although not among those with lower
`The effects of nut consumption were dose related, and different types of nuts
had similar effects on blood lipid levels,` the authors write. `The effects of
nut consumption were significantly modified by LDL-C, body mass index and diet
type: the lipid-lowering effects of nut consumption were greatest among subjects
with high baseline LDL-C and with low body mass index and among those consuming
The results support the inclusion of nuts in therapeutic dietary interventions
for improving blood cholesterol levels, they conclude.
`Nuts are a whole food that have been consumed by humans throughout history.
Increasing the consumption of nuts as part of an otherwise prudent diet can be
expected to favorably affect blood lipid levels (at least in the short term) and
have the potential to lower coronary heart disease risk.`
Still some doctors believe that this is not
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