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Dose response shown for nut consumption lipid benefits

Arch Intern Med 2010; 170: 821–827

People can improve their lipid profile by increasing their consumption of nuts, show results of a meta-analysis.

"Nuts are a whole food that have been consumed by humans throughout history," say Joan Sabaté (Loma Linda University, California, USA) and colleagues.

"Increasing the consumption of nuts as part of an otherwise prudent diet can be expected to favourably affect blood lipid levels (at least in the short term) and have the potential to lower coronary heart disease risk."

The analysis, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, included 583 men and women who participated in 25 trials. Participants in nine studies had normal lipid levels, while those in 16 studies were hypercholesterolemic. Sixteen trials were crossover studies, seven assessed lipid levels before and after the intervention, and two assessed changes in intervention versus control groups.

The intervention period ranged from 3 to 8 weeks, and the interventions included almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, and pistachio nuts at doses ranging from 34 to 100 grams.
Nut consumption resulted in significant average reductions of 10.9% for total cholesterol and 10.2% for low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. There were also significant improvements in lipid ratios.

The effect was dose related, with LDL cholesterol decreasing by 4.2%, 4.9%, and 6.5% when nuts provided 10.0%, 12.2%, and 20.0% of dietary energy, respectively.

People with the highest baseline lipid levels gained the most benefit. For example, LDL cholesterol fell by an average of 18.4 mg/dl (0.48 mmol/l) in those with baseline levels exceeding 160 mg/dl (4.1 mmol/l), but by just 3.5 mg/dl (0.09 mmol/l) in those with starting levels of less than 130 mg/dl (3.4 mmol/l).

But obesity appeared to counteract the beneficial effects of nut consumption, with average LDL cholesterol reductions of 11.9 (0.31 mmol/l), 9.2 (0.24 mmol/l), and 6.8 mg/dl (0.18 mmol/l) in people who were of normal weight, overweight, or obese, respectively.

"More research is needed to answer the important question of why nuts are less effective in lowering blood cholesterol concentration among subjects with obesity," conclude the researchers.

Read the abstract

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a part of Springer Science+Business Media. © Current Medicine Group Ltd; 2010