High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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A research study – published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation – revealed the daily intake of a certain nut could reduce “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 4.3mg/dL. It might take two years to achieve these results but, considering the health risks associated with high cholesterol, it would be worthwhile. High cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, mini stroke, and peripheral arterial disease, confirmed the NHS.
“Prior studies have shown that nuts in general, and walnuts in particular, are associated with lower rates of heart disease and stroke,” Dr Emilio Ros said.
Eating half a cup of walnuts every day for two years “modestly” lowered LDL cholesterol, the number of total LDL particles, and small LDL particles.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts “improve the quality of LDL particles”.
Dr Ros – the director of the lipid clinic at the endocrinology and nutrition service of the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, Spain – elaborated.
“LDL particles come in various sizes. Research has shown that small, dense LDL particles are more often associated with atherosclerosis, the plaque or fatty deposits that build up in the arteries.
“Our study goes beyond LDL cholesterol levels to get a complete picture of all of the lipoproteins and the impact of eating walnuts daily on their potential to improve cardiovascular risk.”
The large, two-year randomised controlled trial evaluated whether regular walnut consumption had beneficial effects on lipoproteins.
There were 708 participants, between the ages of 63 to 79, who were divided into two groups.
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The “intervention group” and “control group”
The intervention group added half a cup of walnuts to their usual daily diet while the control group did not.
After two years, the participants’ cholesterol levels were tested and the size and concentration of lipoproteins were analysed by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
Firstly, participants in the walnut group had an average of 4.3mg/dL lower LDL cholesterol levels than the control group.
As for total cholesterol levels, the intervention group had, on average, 8.5mg/dL lower levels.
Secondly, daily consumption of walnuts reduced the number of total LDL particles by 4.3 percent and small LDL particles by 6.1 percent.
These changes are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Thirdly, intermediate density lipoprotein (IDL) – a “known” precursor to LDL cholesterol – also decreased in the group who ate walnuts daily.
And fourthly, LDL cholesterol changes among the walnut group differed in sex.
To expand on the fourth point, LDL cholesterol fell by 7.9 percent for men, while falling by 2.6 percent in women.
“Eating a handful of walnuts every day is a simple way to promote cardiovascular health,” said Dr Ros.
“Many people are worried about unwanted weight gain when they include nuts in their diet.
“Our study found that the healthy fats in walnuts did not cause participants to gain weight.”
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