Walnuts Lower LDL and Possibly CVD Risk

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
October 15, 2021
Walnuts Lowers LDL and Possibly CVD Risk

If you like walnuts, you’re going to go nuts over this: They may help lower your risk for heart disease.

Coronary artery disease, the most common form of cardiovascular disease, when plaque builds up in your arteries. Elevated levels low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol, are a major contributor. 

LDL causes fatty deposits to accumulate along arterial walls, impeding blood flow which can deprive organs (including the heart) of oxygen and nutrients, cause chest pain and potentially lead to poor circulation, heart attack, stroke and/or kidney failure. Studies suggest lowering LDL levels helps lower the risk for coronary artery disease.

There are several ways to lower LDL. For instance, your doctor may prescribe a statin, a class of medications that help control cholesterol production in the liver. A heart-healthy lifestyle also helps: exercising, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, losing weight and eating nutritious foods such as walnuts. 

Walnuts? Yep, eating a half cup of walnuts everyday has been found to lower LDL and possibly your risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

Researchers from Hospital Clinic of Barcelona (Spain) recruited more than 700 healthy, independent-living participants and enrolled them in a two-year study. Participants were mostly women (68 percent) between the ages of 63 and 79, living in Barcelona, Spain and Loma Linda, California. Participants were randomly divided into two groups -- active intervention and control. The intervention group added a half cup of walnuts to their daily diet, while the control group abstained from eating walnuts. After two years, 90 percent of participants (632 participants) had completed the study and researchers tested cholesterol levels in both groups and analyzed the concentration and size of lipoproteins using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Complete analyses were obtained on 628 participants. Results showed:

  • Participants in the walnut group averaged 4.3 mg/dL lower LDL cholesterol levels and 8.5 mg/dL lower total cholesterol. A 7.9 percent drop in LDL was reported in men and 2.6 percent drop in women. 
  • Eating walnuts daily decreased the number of total LDL particles by 4.3 percent and small LDL particles by 6.1 percent. Studies have found that lower LDL particle concentration and composition lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Intermediate density lipoprotein (IDL) cholesterol also decreased. IDL is a lipoprotein between LDL and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein). They are a precursor to LDL and risk factor for LDL cholesterol. 

Most nuts are good sources of healthy fats --polyunsaturated fatty acids – that help lower cholesterol. But walnuts also have alpha-linoleic acid, an anti-inflammatory that helps:

  • Lower apolipoprotein B (Apo B) -- the main protein in LDL and VLDL.
  • Plaque buildup in coronary arteries 
  • Improve cholesterol levels 
  • Enhance the functioning of small arteries and blood vessels  

“Eating a half cup of walnuts every day is an easy, albeit small, step to preventing and controlling cardiovascular disease,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Your doctor can help you adopt a comprehensive heart-healthy lifestyle that includes exercising, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, managing stress and getting adequate sleep. And if you like walnuts, they may also help.” 

Need a doctor? Consider partnering with MDVIP. MDVIP-affiliated physicians have the time and resources to help you prevent cardiovascular disease. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health »

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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