In a new study, researchers found that when combined with a diet low in saturated fats, eating walnuts may help lower blood pressure, especially in people with a high heart disease risk.
The research was conducted by a team from Penn State.
In the new study, the team examined the effects of replacing some of the saturated fats in participants’ diets with walnuts.
They tested 45 people with overweight or obesity who were between the ages of 30 and 65.
Before the study began, all participants were placed on a “run-in” diet for two weeks.
The run-in diet included 12% of their calories from saturated fat, which mimics an average American diet.
After the run-in diet, the people ate one of three study diets, all of which included less saturated fat than the run-in diet.
All three diets substituted walnuts or vegetable oils for 5% of the saturated fat content of the run-in diet. All participants followed each diet for six weeks.
They found that all three diets had a beneficial effect on heart health, but the diet with whole walnuts provided the greatest benefits, including lower central blood pressure.
Central pressure is the pressure that is exerted on organs like the heart.
This measure, like blood pressure measured in the arm the traditional way, provides information about a person’s risk of heart disease.
Because walnuts lowered central pressure, the risk of heart disease may have also decreased.
The team explains that the benefit of walnut may be from their bioactive compounds, their fiber, or something people don’t get in the fatty acids alone.
The finding suggests replacing saturated fat with healthier alternatives can be important for heart health.
This is one of the first to try to uncover which parts of the walnuts help support heart health
The lead author of the study is Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Penn State.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
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