Mounting Evidence Underscores the Important Role of Nuts in a Heart Healthy Diet: New Findings from From a Pooled Analysis Published in Archives of Internal Medicine

DAVIS, CA, May 10, 2010 – The most comprehensive study to date on nuts and blood lipids was published today in Archives of Internal Medicine, further supporting the evidence that regular nut consumption can lower the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Those who consumed an average of 67 grams (or 2.4 ounces) of nuts per day had a mean estimated reduction in total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, LDL/HDL ratio and total cholesterol/HDL ratio of 5.1%, 7.4%, 8.3% and 5.6% respectively. The effect of nuts was dose-related and different types of nuts had similar effects on blood lipids.

“This analysis shows clear evidence that regular nut consumption can decrease LDL cholesterol and improve blood lipid profiles,” states Dr. Joan Sabaté, lead researcher of the study and one of the pioneers in nut research. Studies have shown that nuts help reduce the risk of CHD not only by lowering cholesterol levels but through their beneficial effects on improving endothelial function, lowering oxidative stress and reducing lipoprotein(a) levels (a type of cholesterol that increases risk for heart disease.)

Dr. Sabaté and colleagues at Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA, looked at 25 studies conducted in seven countries with 583 normo- and hypercholesterolemic men and women who were not on cholesterol-lowering medication. In addition to the lipid-lowering effects mentioned above, for those individuals with high triglyceride levels, nut intake did have a significant positive effect on both HDL- cholesterol and triglyceride levels. And, the cholesterol lowering effect of nuts was more pronounced in individuals with a higher LDL-cholesterol or lower body mass index (BMI).

According to Dr. Sabaté, nuts have unique nutritional attributes. Tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts) are rich in plant protein and unsaturated fats and contain a number of important nutrients such as vitamins (i.e., folate, niacin, vitamin E), minerals (i.e., copper, phosphorus, magnesium) and a variety phytonutrients.

The findings in this analysis support those from epidemiological studies which have consistently shown that nut consumption reduces the risk of heart disease. In 2003 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), based on all of the evidence, issued a qualified health claim that states: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Interestingly, while the FDA recommends 1.5 ounces (about 1/3 cup) of nuts per day, recent consumption data show that most people in the U.S. consume far less (mean intake of 1.19 ounces/day for nut consumers). “We need to continue educating people on the importance of adding nuts to their diet,” suggests Maureen Ternus, M.S., R.D., Executive Director of the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation (INC NREF). “More and more research is showing that eating just a handful of tree nuts a day can result in numerous health benefits.”