The cardiovascular benefits of walnuts were officially acknowledged by the European Union with the acceptance of one walnut-specific and three generic health claims.  A total of 222 health claims were published in the Official Journal of the EU, and walnuts were the only nut granted a specific health claim.

“Walnuts contribute to the improvement of the elasticity of the blood vessels” is the first and foremost claim and unique to walnuts.  The claim may be used only for food that provides a daily intake of 30 grams of walnuts (approximately one serving/ounce by U.S. Standards). The elasticity of the blood vessels is important for the blood flow and function of the blood vessels, which is one factor of cardiovascular health, a major concern for Americans.

Additionally, California walnuts were granted the use of three generic claims due to their good fatty acid profile.   They primarily contain polyunsaturated fatty acids (13 g of 18 g total fat in one ounce) plus 2.5 grams monounsaturated fatty acids. Walnuts are the only nut providing an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid, the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid (2.5 grams in one ounce).  Omega-3 fatty acids are essential, and the body does not produce them so they must be obtained from the food one eats.

The following generic claims were approved for all food products that meet the respective fatty acid composition requirements.

  • “Alpha-linolenic acid contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.”
  • “Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats in the diet contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.” [MUFA and PUFA are unsaturated fats]
  • “Linoleic acid contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.”

For example in order to bear the ALA claim, a food product must contain at least 15 percent of the EU daily intake of 2 grams of ALA per portion.  However, the thresholds for the nutrient profiles are still forthcoming by the EU. This may further limit products entitled to bear a claim. The regulation requires various additional information to be published on packaging jointly with a health claim. Legal counsel should be sought as to the exact wording and design of the label to ensure that all requirements are met.

“It is good to see that those health benefits specific to walnuts are now also officially accepted in the EU.  We in the scientific community continue to research the health benefits of fatty and amino acids as well as nutrients pertinent to walnuts”, states Emilio Ros, MD, PhD., Lipid Clínic of Hospital Clínico, University of Barcelona, on the publication of the Health Claims. “With over seventy-five published studies to date and an additional thirty projects ongoing, the California Walnut Commission (CWC) remains committed to exploring walnuts role in the diet,” says Dennis A. Balint, CEO of the CWC. “Besides, incorporating walnuts into meals is a simple and convenient way to add variety and taste.”

More information about the European health claims can be found at http://ec.europa.eu/nuhclaims/.

To find more ways to add walnuts to the diet, visit www.walnuts.org for recipes, snacking ideas, nutrition information and much more.