Fatty acid composition of nuts – implications for cardiovascular health

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Ros, E., J. Mataix, 2006. Fatty acid composition of nuts - implications for cardiovascular health. British Journal of Nutrition. 96, Suppl. 2, S29-S35.

It is well established that, due to their high content of saturated fatty acids (SFA), the intake of meat and meat products is strongly associated with elevated blood cholesterol concentrations and an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Conversely, the intake of foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids, such as those contained in most vegetable fats and oils and oily fish, is associated with improved lipid profiles, a lower potency of intermediate biomarkers of atherosclerosis and lesser incidence of cardiovascular diseases. There are persuasive evidences that dietary substitution of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) or n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) for SFA lowers blood cholesterol and may have beneficial effects on inflammation, thrombosis, and vascular reactivity. MUFA may have an advantage over PUFA because enrichment of lipoprotein lipids with MUFA increases their resistance to oxidation. Marine n-3 PUFA have a number of anti-atherosclerotic effects, including anti-arrhythmic properties and, at relatively high doses, reduce serum triglycerides. These effects appear to be shared in part by vegetable n-3 PUFA. Nuts are natural foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids; most nuts contain substantial amounts of MUFA, while walnuts are especially rich in both n-6 and n-3 PUFA. Healthy fats in nuts contribute to the beneficial effects of frequent nut intake observed in epidemiological studies (prevention of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and sudden death) and in short-term feeding trials (cholesterol lowering, LDL resistance to oxidation, and improved endothelial function).