This One Food Can Lower Your Heart Disease Risk, New Study Says
Walnuts may not be the first thing you think to throw into your shopping cart, but these snackable tree nuts have long been touted for a range of health benefits, from curbing cravings to boosting your mood. Plus, they're a veritable superfood when it comes to heart health thanks to their high polyunsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acid content. That earns them a spot on any list of foods for lower cholesterol, but a new study has found that walnuts might also be anti-inflammatory, which may mean they’re even better for your heart than previously thought.
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, aimed to find out if walnuts are anti-inflammatory. Why? Because inflammation is thought to increase cardiovascular disease risk. In fact, another new study published in JACC found that a diet high in inflammatory foods (like red meat, added sugars, and refined carbohydrates) was associated with a 46% higher risk of coronary heart disease and a 28% higher risk of stroke. (Related: 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.)
Researchers looked at data from 634 participants in the Walnuts and Healthy Aging trial, which randomly assigned older but healthy adults to either add 1 to 2 ounces of walnuts to their typical diet each day, or keep their diet the same while avoiding walnuts for two years. We know what you're thinking, and yes, that's a lot of nuts—but evidently, those nuts paid off.
After two years, those who had kicked up their walnut consumption reduced 6 of the 10 biomarkers for inflammation that the study was tracking, with no reported negative effect on weight. The study authors concluded that walnuts do have anti-inflammatory properties, which might explain why they’ve proven to be so heart-healthy.
"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 heart disease risk beyond that of cholesterol lowering," Montserrat Cofán, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a researcher at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain, said in a press release.
In an editorial commentary published alongside the study, other researchers not involved in the study noted that it seemingly confirmed what previous, smaller studies couldn't. "By being the largest and longest nut trial to date, this study had enough power to overcome the limitations of previous studies that assessed the effects of nuts on inflammation with inconclusive results," they wrote.
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