When I was growing up, it seemed as though nut consumption increased about ten-fold in my house around the holidays. I couldn’t wait until Christmas morning because I knew “Santa” would yet again leave me a canister of cashew nuts in my stocking. Candy dishes placed around the house were filled with gourmet nuts still in their shells just waiting to be cracked open by eager hands. And, of course, baked goods and special holiday meals were filled with delicious pieces of chopped walnuts and pecans. Although peanuts were pretty much a mainstay in our home throughout the year, other nuts were primarily reserved for special occasions; and so, I always have viewed nuts to be a “treat.”
Last month, an article published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has changed this mindset. Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of previous epidemiological studies that investigated the relationship between nut consumption and cholesterol levels. This review of the literature found that regular nut consumption was associated with lower levels of total- and LDL-cholesterol levels, and that this effect was dose-related. These effects were most pronounced in individuals who had the highest baseline levels of LDL-cholesterol (>160 mg/dl) and in those individuals who had a lower body mass index (<25 kg/m squared). Improvements were also noted in the total cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol ratio, as well as the LDL- to HDL-cholesterol ratio. However, no significant changes occurred on HDL-cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
Across the 25 studies reviewed of 583 men and women, it was calculated that a mean daily consumption of 67 grams of nuts per day was associated with these improvements in blood lipids. Age and gender did not appear to play a factor, nor did the type of nut (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pistachios, macadamias, and pecans) consumed. It is well established that improvements in blood lipid profiles are correlated with a reduction in risk for heart disease. Therefore, the authors of the study concluded that the results of their investigation support the inclusion of nuts as a regular part of a prudent diet. And, that it can be anticipated that an increased intake of nuts will result in an improved cholesterol profile and a subsequent reduction in the risk for heart disease (at least in the short term).
Do you have a favorite kind of nut? What is it? Share with us, we want to know!
Source of Information
ARCH INTERN MED Vol 170 (NO. 9). May 2010, pp.821-827. “Nut Consumption and Blood Lipid Levels,” Sabate, J., et al.,.