(NaturalNews) Eating a diet high in walnuts may decrease cholesterol and fight inflammation, two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, according to a study conducted by researchers from Harvard University and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"Consumption of nuts has been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease events and death," the researchers wrote. "Walnuts in particular have a unique profile: they are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which may improve blood lipids and other cardiovascular disease risk factors."
Walnuts are also considered good dietary sources of fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin E and other antioxidants.
Researchers analyzed the results of 13 different studies conducted on a total of 365 participants who had obtained between 10 and 24 percent of their calories from walnuts for four to 24 weeks. They found that participants on a high-walnut diet underwent significant decreases in total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
"When compared with control diets, diets supplemented with walnuts resulted in a significantly greater decrease in total cholesterol and in LDL-cholesterol concentrations," the researchers wrote.
The researchers also found other indicators that even though a high-walnut diet is high in fat, it seems to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease rather than raising it.
"Other results reported in the trials indicated that walnuts provided significant benefits for certain antioxidant capacity and inflammatory markers and had no adverse effects on body weight," the researchers wrote.
The researchers called for "larger and longer-term trials" to further understand the heart benefits of nut-rich diets.
Prior studies have linked diets high in nuts and berries to a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms related to cardiovascular disease. Other nuts previously linked to improved cardiovascular health include macadamia nuts and almonds.
Diets high in walnuts may also reduce the risk of breast cancer, studies show.