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May 17, 2010

Handsful of nuts a day improves cholesterol levels

Researchers say that eating a handful of nuts a day is associated with improvements in blood cholesterol levels.
Nuts`Dietary interventions to lower blood cholesterol concentrations & to modify blood lipoprotein levels are the cornerstone of prevention & treatment plans for coronary heart disease,` the authors write as background information in the article. `Recently, consumption of nuts has been the focus of intense research because of their potential to reduce coronary heart disease risk & to lower blood lipid [fat & cholesterol] levels based on their unique nutritional attributes.`

Nuts are rich in plant proteins, fats (especially unsaturated fatty acids), dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and other compounds, such as antioxidants & phytoesterols.

Joan Sabaté, M.D., Dr.P.H., of Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, Calif., & colleagues pooled primary data from 25 nut consumption trials conducted in seven countries & involving 583 women & men with high cholesterol or normal cholesterol levels. All the studies compared a control group to a group assigned to consume nuts; participants were not taking lipid-lowering medications.

Participants in the trials consumed an average of 67 grams (about 2.4 ounces) of nuts/day. This was associated with an average 5.1% reduction in total cholesterol concentration, a 7.4% reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or `bad` cholesterol) & an 8.3% change in ratio of LDL cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good" cholesterol). In addition, triglyceride levels declined by 10.2% among individuals with high triglyceride levels (at least 150 mlgms/dl), although not among those with lower levels.

`The effects of nut consumption were dose related, and different types of nuts had similar effects on blood lipid levels,` the authors write. `The effects of nut consumption were significantly modified by LDL-C, body mass index & diet type: the lipid-lowering effects of nut consumption were greatest among subjects with high baseline LDL-C and with low body mass index & among those consuming Western diets.`

The results support the inclusion of nuts in therapeutic dietary interventions for improving blood cholesterol levels, they conclude.

`Nuts are a whole food that 've been consumed by humans throughout history. Increasing the consumption of nuts as part of an otherwise prudent diet can be expected to favorably affect blood lipid levels (at least in the short term) & 've the potential to lower coronary heart disease risk.`
The pooled analysis of data from 25 trials has been reported in the May 10 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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