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Eating Nuts to Help your Cholesterol

By Maggie Tracey O.M.D.

Recent studies provide “the best evidence yet that eating nuts reduces LDL cholesterol and improves the blood lipids profile,” said Dr. Joan Sabate, who chairs the nutrition department at the Loma Linda University School of Public Health in California and was a co-author of the report, published in Archives of Internal Medicine. 

Sabate and fellow researchers at the University pulled data on 583 men and women who had participated in 25 nut consumption trials. The results showed that eating about 2.3 ounces of nuts a day – 1/ third of a cup full – reduced total cholesterol levels by 5.1% and “ bad ““LDL cholesterol by 7.4%.

That amount of nut eating also improved the ratio of LDL cholesterol to “good“ HDL cholesterol by 8.3% and caused a decrease of 10.2% in triglyceride levels of those blood fats.

The new study found that the benefits from eating nuts were greatest amongst in people, those with high LDL cholesterol, and those consuming a fat-rich diet. But enthusiasm for nuts should be restrained, Sabate said. they are high caloric, and this can contribute to obesity. A 3 ounce a day limit was recommended. 

Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, who is in private practice in Sacramento, California, said that “nuts can be a very healthy addition to any diet,” but eating somewhat less of them.

she said she suggests that her clients consume about an ounce a day of nuts – – about 22 walnuts, for example, providing about 150 calories – – as part of their daily diet. “They are rich and protein, and dietary fiber, as well as numerous proteins and in various vitamins,“ Gazzaniga-Moloo said. “ They should eat the nuts and enjoy,” she said. “They can try a variety.”

Sabata said that the type of nuts eaten, doesn’t seem to matter. The study found essentially the same results for walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamias, and pistachios. “Nuts are a matrix of healthy nutrients, and the most obvious reason for the cholesterol–lowering effect is there unsaturated, fat content, “ Sabate said. “Nuts also contain fiber, vegetable protein, phytoesterols, and other antioxidants.“ The best evidence for the beneficial effect of nuts, though, has come from studies of walnuts and almonds, he added.


Joan Sabate, chairman, nutrition department, Loma Linda University School of Public Health, Loma Linda, CA; Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, Ph.D., R.D., dietician, Sacramento, CA

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