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Substituting walnuts for monounsaturated fat improves the serum lipid profile of hypercholesterolemic men and women. A randomized crossover trial.

Zambón, D., J. Sabaté, S. Munoz, B. Campero, E. Casals, M. Merlos, J.C. Laguna, E. Ros, 2000.  Substituting walnuts for monounsaturated fat improves the serum lipid profile of hypercholesterolemic men and women.  A randomized crossover trial. Ann Intern Med. 132:538-546.

BACKGROUND: It has been reported that walnuts reduce serum cholesterol levels in normal young men. OBJECTIVE: To assess the acceptability of walnuts and their effects on serum lipid levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidizability in free-living hypercholesterolemic persons. DESIGN: Randomized, crossover feeding trial. SETTING: Lipid clinic at a university hospital. PATIENTS: 55 men and women (mean age, 56 years) with polygenic hypercholesterolemia. INTERVENTION: A cholesterol-lowering Mediterranean diet and a diet of similar energy and fat content in which walnuts replaced approximately 35% of the energy obtained from monounsaturated fat. Patients followed each diet for 6 weeks. MEASUREMENTS: Low-density lipoprotein fatty acids (to assess compliance), serum lipid levels, lipoprotein (a) levels, and LDL resistance to in vitro oxidative stress. RESULTS: 49 persons completed the trial. The walnut diet was well tolerated. Planned and observed diets were closely matched. Compared with the Mediterranean diet, the walnut diet produced mean changes of -4.1% in total cholesterol level, -5.9% in LDL cholesterol level, and -6.2% in lipoprotein (a) level. The mean differences in the changes in serum lipid levels were -0.28 mmol/L (95% CI, -0.43 to -0.12 mmol/L) (-10.8 mg/dL [-16.8 to -4.8 mg/dL]) (P<0.001) for total cholesterol level, -0.29 mmol/L (CI, -0.41 to -0.15 mmol/L) (-11.2 mg/dL [-16.3 to -6.1 mg/dL]) (P<0.001) for LDL cholesterol level, and -0.021 g/L (CI, -0.042 to -0.001 g/L) (P = 0.042) for lipoprotein(a) level. Lipid changes were similar in men and women except for lipoprotein (a) levels, which decreased only in men. Low-density lipoprotein particles were enriched with polyunsaturated fatty acids from walnuts, but their resistance to oxidation was preserved. CONCLUSION: Substituting walnuts for part of the mono-unsaturated fat in a cholesterol-lowering Mediterranean diet further reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels in men and women with hypercholesterolemia.