Background

Despite their energy density, walnuts can be included in the diet without adverse effects on weight or body composition. The effect of habitual walnut intake on total calorie intake is not well studied. Effects on overall diet quality have not been reported.

Method

Randomized, controlled, modified Latin square parallel design study with 2 treatment arms. The 112 participants were randomly assigned to a diet with or without dietary counseling to adjust calorie intake. Within each treatment arm, participants were further randomized to 1 of the 2 possible sequence permutations to receive a walnut-included diet with 56 g (providing 366 kcal) of walnuts per day and a walnut-excluded diet. Participants were assessed for diet quality, body composition, and cardiac risk measures.

Result

When compared with a walnut-excluded diet, a walnut-included diet for 6 months, with or without dietary counseling to adjust caloric intake, significantly improved diet quality as measured by the Healthy Eating Index 2010 (9.14±17.71 vs 0.40±15.13; p=0.02 and 7.02±15.89 vs -5.92±21.84; p=0.001, respectively). Endothelial function, total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol improved significantly from baseline in the walnut-included diet. Body mass index, percent body fat, visceral fat, fasting glucose, glycated hemoglobin, and blood pressure did not change significantly.

Conclusion

The inclusion of walnuts in an ad libitum diet for 6 months, with or without dietary counseling to adjust calorie intake, significantly improved diet quality, endothelial function, total and LDL cholesterol, but had no effects on anthropometric measures, blood glucose level, and blood pressure.

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