By inhibiting inflammation, nuts protect against strokes and heart attacks
Nuts boost cardiovascular health. That's because nuts have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, we already knew. A group of Spanish and American cardiologists discovered yet another mechanism of action. According to their 2-year intervention study, walnuts inhibit the production of inflammatory proteins.
A diet with a relatively high amount of nuts reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, including the risk of premature death as a result of a heart attack or another cardiovascular disease. This is evident from a Spanish meta-study that appeared in Nutrition Reviews in 2019. [Nutr Rev. 2019 Oct 1;77(10):691-709.]
From this meta-study, we snapped the figure below. Click it for a full version.
Nuts probably protect against cardiovascular disease because they lower the concentration of the 'bad cholesterol' LDL, and also inhibit its oxidation.
In a small and high-risk part of the experimental group, the researchers observed positive effects of walnuts on cognitive functioning. They don't mince words about this, but you can read between the lines that the results of their study were a bit disappointing on that point.
In this project, some of the subjects were given 30-60 grams of walnuts every day, which equates to 1-2 handfuls of walnuts. These subjects were in the experimental group. For 2 years, the subjects in this group got about 15 percent of their energy needs from walnuts.
In a small and high-risk part of the experimental group, the researchers observed positive effects of walnuts on cognitive functioning. You can read between the lines that the results of their study were a bit disappointing on this point.
However, the researchers also saw a decrease in a variety of inflammatory factors in the blood of the experimental group. You can see that below. This decrease may well contribute to the protective cardiovascular effect of a nut diet, the researchers suspect.
"The anti-inflammatory effect of long-term consumption of walnuts demonstrated in this study provides novel mechanistic insight for the benefit of walnut consumption on cardiovascular disease risk beyond that of lipid lowering", write the researchers.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Mar 1;111(3):590-600.
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