Quick Study: Eating nuts may lower cholesterol

May 25, 2010

More nuts may lead to lower cholesterol

THE QUESTION Should people looking for nonmedicinal ways to lower their cholesterol consider eating more nuts?

THIS STUDY compiled and analyzed data from 25 studies, involving 583 people who were assigned to eat or not eat nuts. They ate various types of nuts, but mostly almonds and walnuts. The participants had normal to high cholesterol levels and were not taking cholesterol-lowering medication. People who ate about 2.4 ounces — about a third of a cup — of nuts a day lowered their total cholesterol levels by an average of 5 percent, their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the bad type) by 7 percent and their ratio of low- to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 8 percent. Also, levels of triglycerides (another type of fat in the bloodstream) dropped by 10 percent among nut-eaters who had high triglyceride levels at the start. The effects were virtually the same for all types of nuts.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People seeking dietary ways to lower their cholesterol levels. Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to the development of plaque that narrows or blocks arteries, and this can cause coronary artery disease and a heart attack.

CAVEATS The individual studies were small in size, ranging from 10 to 49 participants each. Some of the 25 original studies were funded by the nut industry; the compilation and analysis were funded in part by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, and two of the three authors had received fees from the industry.