Walnut Enriched Diet Decreases Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes

Matthew Nelder's picture

Of all the worlds’ ills, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is by far a couple of the most insidious diseases. They often take years, even decades to develop and take hold, and oftentimes people fail to take action until it is too late. As a resident of Newfoundland, an island population in which CVD and T2D are particularly prevalent, I often see firsthand the effects these diseases can force an individual to endure.

While there are genetic factors that can predispose an individual to these illnesses, they are treatable and even preventable with the proper education and lifestyle. A study which was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition by Dr. David L. Katz, furthered that education a little more so that people who are at risk of developing these ailments may have another means to improve their quality of life. The study investigated the role of Walnuts on endothelial function in overweight adults with visceral obesity and other characteristics of Metabolic Syndrome, which is a risk factor for CVD and T2D.


Why this Research could Help Improve Your Quality of Life

The endothelium is the innermost layer of our blood vessels and endothelial dysfunction is a significant risk factor and established biomarker for CVD and T2D. Walnuts were chosen as the test food as they have a particularly high concentration of α-Linoleic Acid (ALA), which has been shown to have many cardiovascular benefits in various other studies. It was hypothesized that walnuts could improve endothelial function and subsequently reduce the risk of CVD and T2D in at risk individuals.

The Set Up

46 people which consisted of 18 men and 28 women were selected to take part in this study after a rigorous screening process. They were all required to be between the ages of 30 and 75, non-smoking, BMI of 25 or greater, and a waistline of 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. All participants must have had 1 or more risk factors of Metabolic Syndrome and the experimental design was a randomized, controlled, crossover study.

Once all parameters had been set, the participants were assigned either an 8 week ad libitum diet with 56g of walnuts daily or an ad libitum diet with no walnuts. The first 8 week was followed by a 4 week washout period and the diets of each group were then switched. This helped to ensure that any positive effects seen on endothelial function were, in fact, due to the walnuts and not an outside factor.

Research we can Trust

Regardless of the outcome of this experiment, we can really only benefit from it if the experiment is ran well and with the least amount of error possible. So is this experiment at all reliable? As an individual familiar with the world of scientific research, I can assure you this was rather well done.

There was a number of tests ran to determine endothelial function, cardiovascular biomarkers (lipid, LDL, HDL, etc.), blood pressure, and of course physical measurements such as height, BMI, and waste circumference. To ensure the least amount of error, a registered vascular technologist who was blinded to the study performed the endothelial functionality testing. This was not the only measure taken to see to it that this experiment was successful. The participants were also required to meet with a registered dietitian and log all of their meals for the duration of the experiment. It was the utilization of these unbiased professionals and the overall experimental procedure that substantiate the positive effects that resulted.

An Abundance of Health Benefits

If nothing else, when people were assigned the walnut enriched diet, their intake of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids was significantly increased, this is already a step in the right direction. 56 grams of walnuts a day, after a period of only 2 months did wonders for the overall cardiovascular health of the participants.

First and foremost, endothelial function improved significantly, flow mediated dilation increased by roughly 4 times that of the control group. While the walnut diet did not yield any significant change in weight, it was associated with a smaller waistline. The other important change that was noted was a reduction in blood pressure with walnut intake. The researchers hypothesized that the blood pressure lowering effects of walnuts were due to their fatty acid composition, fiber, and magnesium levels.

It's Never too Late to Turn it Around

So what does this research mean for you? Well considering that the people selected for this study were already at risk of developing Metabolic Syndrome yet still got great results, it means there is still time and hope that you too can make a difference in the quality of your life through your diet. It turns out that sometimes, subtle changes can improve your health in not so subtle ways.




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