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Walnuts, Flaxseed Oil Lowers Cholesterol

A diet rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from walnuts, walnut oil and flaxseed oil not only lowered bad cholesterol but also decreased markers for blood vessel inflammation in men and women with typical cardiovascular risks, according to a new study issued by Penn State University. Although previous research has shown walnut intake favorably affects cholesterol and other lipids that are signs of cardiovascular risk, this new study is the first to demonstrate a diet high in walnuts decreases C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation strongly associated with heart disease.

The study included 23 middle-age patients who were overweight, had moderately elevated cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and were representative of individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Patients ate three experimental diets that provided about 35 percent of total calories as fat.

  • The traditional American diet.
  • A linoleic acid (LA) diet, including an ounce of walnuts and a tablespoon of walnut oil.
  • An ALA diet, including walnuts and walnut oil as well as a teaspoon of flaxseed oil to boost the content of alpha-linolenic acid.

Compared to the average American diet, the LA and ALA diets lowered total cholesterol about 11 percent, LDLs about 11 or 12 percent and triglycerides about 18 percent. After six weeks on the diet, CRP declined after both the LA and ALA diets but more so on the latter diet.

Although this is certainly good news, because walnuts are much better for you than peanuts, the results may be skewed a bit because so few people really get the right amount of omega-3 fats every day.

By far, the best source for omega-3 is fish and cod liver oil. Unlike walnuts or flax seeds, both are high in DHA and EPA, two fatty acids that are pivotal in preventing heart disease, cancer and many other diseases.

EurekAlert November 8, 2004

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