"The PREDIMED study is very important to the field of nutrition in that it looked at clinical outcomes, not just risk factors, which sets a tone for future research – that you can study what we eat in its natural form and come out at the end with reduced disease events," said David R. Jacobs, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, who also commented that this research should be of interest to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advisory committee. It is particularly important to scientists because the clinical trial design meets a very high standard for validity of the results.

Researchers, including Dr. Sabate, believe it is the synergy of nutrients in the whole walnut that yields the benefits, but note that walnuts are unique among nuts as the only one with a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based essential omega-3 fatty acid.

The California walnut industry has been at the forefront and a leader in research focused on whole foods. "The industry is proud to grow a whole food that tastes great, is very versatile, and has proven health benefits. Consumers have responded overwhelmingly to the health message," said Dennis A. Balint, chief executive officer of the California Walnut Commission (CWC). "In 1987, health was not at all associated with walnut purchases. Now, after twenty years of health research and ninety-one publications, 86% of consumers believe walnuts are a nutritious food."

Commenting on what this all means to the California walnut growers, Carl Cilker, a grower and the chair of the CWC's market development committee says, "Walnut growers have always believed in the healthy value of their crop and results from years of research have shown health benefits beyond what we imagined. Future research will increase our knowledge of walnuts' benefits and will underscore the importance of providing a stable supply for the increasing number of consumers who purchase them."

The latest research:

•   Landmark Clinical Study Reports Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Walnuts Significantly Reduces Risk of Stroke and Cardiovascular Diseases

•   New Harvard study reports walnut consumption to be linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women

For more industry information, health research and recipe ideas, visit www.walnuts.org