"Dietary interventions to lower blood cholesterol concentrations and to modify blood lipoprotein levels are the cornerstone of prevention and treatment plans for coronary heart disease," Joan Sabate, M.D., of Loma Linda University and colleagues stated in their report, which was just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. "Recently, consumption of nuts has been the focus of intense research because of their potential to reduce coronary heart disease risk and to lower blood lipid (fat and cholesterol) levels based on their unique nutritional attributes."
The Loma Linda University researchers investigated data from 25 international nut consumption trials involving 583 women and men with high cholesterol or normal cholesterol levels. Each study compared a control group of research subjects to a group assigned to specifically eat nuts regularly. None of the study participants took cholesterol lowering drugs such as Big Pharma's widely prescribed statins.
On average, the people in the trials who ate about 67 grams (approximately 2.4 ounces) of nuts each day had an overall reduction in total cholesterol levels of 5.1 percent. Even more important, there was a 7.4 percent drop in low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is known as the "bad" cholesterol, and a significant 8.3 percent change in the ratio of LDL cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol that protects from heart disease.
The news got even better when the scientists looked at the effect of nut consumption on high levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream. These blood fats, when excessive, are known to contribute to the development of heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease; triglycerides may play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes, too. The Archives of Internal Medicine report showed that eating nuts didn't change healthy levels of triglycerides in the body. However, in people with high levels, a diet rich in nuts caused triglyceride levels to take a 10.2 percent nosedive.
Bottom line: the researchers concluded the results of their study support the inclusion of nuts as a natural dietary therapy aimed at improving blood cholesterol levels. "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 favorably affect blood lipid levels (at least in the short term) and have the potential to lower coronary heart disease risk," the researchers stated.