What is in this article?:
- Walnuts jam-packed with health benefits
- Increasing demand
- In the last twenty years, 91 studies and counting have linked numerous potential health benefits from walnuts in the areas of heart health, diabetes, weight management and cognitive function.
In 1993, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published landmark research from Loma Linda University showing the heart protective quality of walnuts. In the two decades since, 91 studies and counting, worldwide, have linked numerous potential health benefits from walnuts in the areas of heart health, diabetes, weight management and cognitive function. Additional research has been investigating the potential benefits of walnuts on various types of cancer in animal models (the results are indicators that are used as background and to formulate hypotheses for other studies); this includes eight studies co-funded by the American Institute for Cancer Research, resulting in $488,000 in grants supporting walnuts health research.
Such research has contributed to the shift in perception from walnuts being a food to avoid because of fat, to being named a "SuperFood"1 with "good fat." In fact, the health benefits are now the top reason that consumers are purchasing more walnuts.
Other milestones have included:
• In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) affirmed a qualified health claim for walnuts, one of the first for a whole food. "Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. See nutrition information for fat content."2
• In 2011, the American Heart Association certified walnuts as a heart-healthy food with its Heart-Check mark, an icon that consumers trust.
• In 2012, walnuts were the only nut to receive health claims from the European Union. Walnuts received four: one specific to walnuts and blood flow, and three generic health claims.
Joan Sabate, M.D., Dr.PH., Chair of the Nutrition Department at Loma Linda University, served as principal investigator of the 1993 study3that directly linked the benefit of walnut consumption to serum cholesterol in a small group of healthy men. "Twenty years ago we released the first study showing the health benefits of walnuts. Subsequent years of research have shown benefits in other populations. Now, the results of a trial from Spain4, recently announced at Loma Linda, further demonstrate that a plant-based diet, infused with nutritious unrefined plant fats, can have long-lasting effects for heart health," said Dr. Sabate in reference to the landmark Spanish PREDIMED (PREvencion con DIeta MEDiterranea) trial results. This newly published study found a Mediterranean diet including nuts, primarily walnuts, reduced the risk of cardiovascular diseases (myocardial infarction, stroke or cardiovascular death) by 30% and specifically reduced the risk of stroke by 49% when compared to a reference diet consisting of advice on a low-fat diet (American Heart Association guidelines). Please note, because the study participants were at high cardiovascular risk, whether the results can be generalized to persons at lower risk or to other settings requires further research.