Latest Research Shows Heart Health Benefits of Walnuts in the German Diet

California Walnuts
Dec 5, 2013
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Folsom, Calif., (Dec 3, 2013) – A new study published in Metabolism indicates a diet with walnuts may reduce cardiovascular disease risk by significantly reducing non-HDL cholesterol1 and apolipoprotein B2 (ApoB) – two predictors of cardiovascular disease risk. Researchers at University of Munich Medical Center, Germany investigated the effects of daily walnut consumption (43 grams/1.5 ounce) on blood lipid levels that predict cardiovascular disease risk, and found non-HDL cholesterol and ApoB levels were significantly reduced on the walnut enriched diet by over 6% and 5% respectively.

Study participants (40 healthy senior men and women) consumed walnuts as part of their normal diet, for an eight-week period. While eating walnuts, study participants reduced intake of saturated fat and increased consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids, resulting in beneficial changes in their lipid profile. Walnuts are comprised predominately of polyunsaturated fat and are one of the few foods that offer an excellent source of the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid – 2.5 grams/ounce.3

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women and is responsible for 1 in every 4 deaths in the United States. Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $108.9 billion each year.4A healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet play an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. “These diseases usually develop as a result of a number of different risk factors among which lipid factors such as non-HDL cholesterol5 and apolipoprotein B6(ApoB) are the most important. Our study has shown that people can benefit from supplementing their diet with walnuts, which helps reduce these risk parameters,” says lead investigator Dr. Klaus Parhofer.

Past research in countries throughout the world, including the United States, Spain, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, suggests a walnut-enriched diet may have beneficial effects on heart-health markers. Studies in a variety of populations have reported that study participants consuming walnuts as part of a healthy diet experienced decreased LDL-cholesterol levels. In addition, some research indicates that walnuts may have some beneficial effects on endothelial function, oxidative stress, markers of inflammation, and cholesterol efflux, although the current study did not find an effect on these outcomes. The effect of walnuts on multiple CVD targets over relatively short periods of time supports recommendations for their inclusion in a heart healthy diet.

The research surrounding the cardiovascular benefits of walnuts is so extensive that in 2004 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved one of the first qualified health claims for a whole food.7 In addition, the European Union recently officially acknowledged the cardiovascular benefits of walnuts with the acceptance of three generic8 and one walnut-specific health claim stating that “walnuts contribute to the improvement of the elasticity of the blood vessels” which is a key factor for cardiovascular health. Walnuts were the only nut to receive such health claims.

Cardiologist Dr. James Beckerman of the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute in Portland, Oregon recommends walnuts to his patients.“Diet is a key component in the fight against heart disease. Walnuts are a unique nutrient-dense package offering abundant heart health benefits that I urge my patients to consume to help protect their heart and improve heart health blood lipid levels and maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure.”

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About the California Walnut Commission

The California Walnut Commission, established in 1987, is funded by mandatory assessments of the growers. The Commission is an agency of the State of California that works in concurrence with the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The CWC is mainly involved in health research and export market development activities.

Non-Discrimination Statement

The California Walnut Commission (CWC) prohibits discrimination in all programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance programs. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact the CWC offices at (916) 922-5888. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). CWC is an equal opportunity employer and provider.

The California Walnut Commission offices are located at 101 Parkshore Dr., Ste. #250, Folsom, CA 95630.

Media Resources Available:

  • Abstract and Full Study:
  • Health Professional Resource Guide
  • High Resolution Photography
  • B-roll
  • Walnut Heart Healthy Recipes & Beauty Shots:
    • Walnut Salsa Verde Over Crispy Salmon
    • Pomegranate Glazed Carrots
    • Roasted Root Vegetable Soup with Rosemary Walnuts
    • Omega-3 Chart Comparing Alpha-Linolenic Acid in Nuts
    • Interviews with researchers and experts:
    • Klaus Parhofer, Ph.D.: Lead investigator; University of Munich Medical Center
    • James Beckerman, M.D.: Cardiologist; Providence Heart and Vascular Institute in Portland, Oregon
    • Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., F.A.D.A: Pennsylvania State University Distinguished Professor of Nutrition; Immediate Past President of National Lipid Association
    • Wendy Bazilian, Ph.D., M.A., R.D.: Author and Nutrition Consultant
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