Healthy living

Eating nuts improves cholesterol levels

But not salted ones...

Eating a handful of nuts a day is good for the heart by helping to lower blood cholesterol levels, according to new research.

A review of 25 previous studies involving 583 people found that eating an average of 67g or 2.4 ounces of nuts a day reduced the concentration of "bad" LDL-cholesterol by 7.4 per cent.

In addition, eating a small handful of nuts also reduced the levels of blood triglycerides by 10.2 per cent among those who had high levels of the blood fat at the start of the study.

Both high concentrations of LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides are associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, blocked arteries and heart disease.

The men and women in the studies were drawn from seven countries and included those with high and normal cholesterol levels. All participants ate 67g of nuts a day for three to six weeks.

The biggest cholesterol lowering effect of eating nuts was seen in people who already had high blood cholesterol levels as well as those who were on typical Western diets - i.e. those rich in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates.

Dr Joan Sabate from Loma Linda University in California, who led the study, said: "Nuts are a whole food that have been consumed by humans throughout history.

"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."

Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “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.”

The study findings are published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

This article was published on Tue 11 May 2010

Image © Dmitry Rukhlenko -

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