Cholesterol benefits of eating nuts greater for thinner people, and those on unhealthy diets

Cholesterol benefits of eating nuts greater for thinner people, and those on unhealthy diets

Adding plenty of nuts to your diet can have a significantly positive impact on your cholesterol levels; however, thinner people, those on less healthy diets, as well as individuals with higher levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, appear to get the most benefit.

In an interview with Reuters Health, Dr. Joan Sabate, Loma Linda University, California, USA said that several studies around the world have shown that nuts "do lower cholesterol, so it's pretty much universal".

Nuts have always been known as a good source of antioxidants, fiber and good fats. According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), USA, consuming 1.5 ounces of nuts per day may contribute significantly towards a lower coronary heart disease risk.

Dr. Sabate and team collected data from 25 studies spanning 7 countries and including 583 males and females. Some of them had normal while other had high cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels.

The authors wrote that "The objectives of this study were to estimate the effects of nut consumption on blood lipid levels and to examine whether different factors modify the effects."

The researchers reported that individuals who consumed approximately 2.4 ounces (67 grams) experienced a 5% fall in their cholesterol levels (7% drop in bad cholesterol levels). These individuals also experienced a positive shift in their good (HDL) and bad (LDL) ratios. The benefits were evident in both groups of people - those with high and those with normal cholesterol levels.

Although regular nut consumption brought down triglyceride levels in individuals whose levels were too high, those with normal levels were not affected.

The impact of adding nuts to one's diet was found to be linked to quantity too. The more of them you ate, the bigger the impact appeared to be.

Those with LDL cholesterol levels above 160 milligrams experienced the biggest change, followed by thinner people, and people whose diets were high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates (those with a poor diet).

The authors concluded:

"Nut consumption improves blood lipid levels in a dose-related manner, particularly among subjects with higher LDL-C or with lower BMI (body mass index)."

Nut Consumption and Blood Lipid Levels - A Pooled Analysis of 25 Intervention Trials

Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH; Keiji Oda, MA, MPH; Emilio Ros, MD, PhD

Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(9):821-827.

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Section Issues On Medicine: Cardiology