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Nuts help lower bad cholesterol

New study finds people who ate nuts every day had better cholesterol levels, but a heart charity says stay clear of salted ones
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

11th May 2010 - Eating more nuts appears to be linked with improvements in cholesterol levels, according to a new study.

Researchers from Loma Linda University in the US looked at data from 25 trials and reported their findings in the 10th May issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study

The 25 nut consumption trials were conducted in seven countries and involved 583 men and women with high or normal cholesterol levels.

All the studies compared a control group to a group told to eat nuts. No participants were taking lipid-lowering medications.

Nuts are rich in plant proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytoesterols.

The participants ate an average of 67 grams of nuts per day.

Walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachio nuts and pecans were used across the 25 studies.

The results

The nut eating was linked to an average 5.1% reduction in total cholesterol concentration, a 7.4% reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol) and an 8.3% change in ratio of LDL cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol).

Triglyceride levels were lowered by 10.2% among the participants who had high triglyceride levels, but not among those who started out with lower levels.

Different types of nuts had similar effects on blood lipid levels.

The authors say their results support the inclusion of nuts in therapeutic diets to improve cholesterol levels.

"Nuts are a whole food that have been consumed by humans throughout history,” they write, “Increasing the consumption of nuts as part of an otherwise prudent diet can be expected to favourably affect blood lipid levels (at least in the short term) and have the potential to lower coronary heart disease risk."

British Heart Foundation reaction

Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, says in a news release: “Apart from salted peanuts at the pub, nuts in sugary cereals or the traditional Christmas selection, nuts have been largely lacking in our diets in the UK.

“What we eat is extremely important to our overall health, and adding nuts back into our diet in place of saturated fats could help to improve cholesterol levels for many people.

“Lowering cholesterol is important as it reduces your risk of developing heart disease. However, too much salt isn't good either so go for unsalted nuts in small amounts.”

Reviewed on May 10, 2010

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