Findings from the largest study on the benefits of walnuts show that regular consumption in older adults can reduce the risk of heart disease.
That the consumption of walnuts, among other nuts, as part of a healthy diet can be good for the heart is a recommendation based on the results of various studies. Now, the largest research on the benefits of walnuts has added new evidence in that regard.
These are the results of a randomized controlled trial (participants are divided into two groups at random), recently published in the journal of the American College of Cardiology (Journal of the American College of Cardiology), which indicated that people in their 60s and 70s who regularly consume walnuts may have less inflammation, a factor associated with a lower risk of heart disease, compared to those who do not include these nuts in their intake. The research was part of the study Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA), the largest and longest trial to date exploring the benefits of daily nut consumption.
For the research, led by Dr. Emilio Ros, from the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, in alliance with the University of Loma Linda, more than 600 healthy older adults were divided into two: the members of the intervention group consumed 30 to 60 grams of walnuts per day as part of their typical diet and those in the control group followed their standard diet (without nuts) for two years.
The results? Those who ate walnuts had a significant reduction in inflammation, measured by the concentration of known inflammatory markers in the blood, which were reduced by up to 11.5%. Of the 10 well-known inflammatory markers that were measured in the study, six were significantly reduced among those who ate walnuts, including interleukin-1β, a potent pro-inflammatory cytokine whose drug inactivation is strongly associated with reduced rates of coronary heart disease.
“Acute inflammation is a physiological process due to the activation of the immune system from an injury such as trauma or infection, and is an important defense of the body, “explains Ros, lead researcher on the study.” Short-term inflammation helps us heal wounds and fight infections, but inflammation that persists over time (chronic), caused by factors such as poor diet, obesity, stress and high blood pressure, is harmful rather than cure, particularly when it comes to cardiovascular disease. The findings of this study suggest that walnuts are a food that can decrease chronic inflammation, which could help reduce the risk of heart disease, a condition to which we become more susceptible as we age, “he added.
Chronic inflammation is a critical factor in the development and progression of atherosclerosis, which is the accumulation of plaque or the “hardening” of the arteries, the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes. Therefore, the severity of atherosclerosis is highly dependent on chronic inflammation, and changes in diet and lifestyle are key to mitigating this process.
While existing scientific evidence establishes that walnuts are a heart-healthy food, researchers continue to investigate the the “how” and the “why” behind the cardiovascular benefits of walnuts.
According to Ros, “walnuts have an optimal combination of essential nutrients such as omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and other highly bioactive components such as polyphenols, which probably play a role in their anti-inflammatory effect and other health benefits. “
While the results are promising, the research has limitations. The study participants were older adults who led healthy lives. In addition, more research is needed in more diverse and disadvantaged populations.