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TODAY news for Thursday, October 15, 2007

School of Public Health news

LLU research show nuts are good for the heart

Eating nuts is linked with a lower risk of heart disease.
Eating nuts is linked with a lower risk of heart disease.
Walnuts, almonds, pecans—if you care about your heart health, you’d be a little nutty to dislike these three foods.

Faculty members in the nutrition department at Loma Linda University School of Public Health have studied these three nuts under tightly controlled conditions.

What they have discovered is that eating almonds, pecans, and walnuts improves cholesterol levels. And that translates into a healthier cardiovascular system.

Simply put, nuts are good for you. But are these calorie-dense items good for the waistline, too?

“The major concern, by professionals and the consumers alike, of consuming nuts on a regular basis is if they are fattening. This is an interesting relationship that hasn’t been proven,” says Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, chair of the department of nutrition.

To incorporate nuts into the diet without packing on extra pounds, Dr. Sabaté recommends replacing less healthy food choices with nuts, rather than adding nuts on top of what you’re already eating.

Other ways to incorporate nuts into the diet include sprinkling them on salads or breakfast cereal, or even including them in pizzas and pastas.

Up next, the nutrition department is planning a study comparing walnuts with fish. Both foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but the molecules are of different lengths. The researchers will explore whether eating walnuts offers similar, or better, benefits than eating fish.

Loma Linda University began studying nuts as a result of the Adventist Health Study, a long-term research project that monitored the diet, lifestyle, and health of 34,000 Seventh-day Adventists in California. The study revealed that participants who frequently ate nuts had a lower risk of heart disease. It was the first study to show this link.

“The scientific story connecting nut consumption and human health started here at Loma Linda. And after 15 years, many studies, and publications, we are still considered the world experts in this field,” says Dr. Sabaté.

Though Loma Linda researchers have focused on pecans, walnuts, and almonds, you don’t have to limit yourself to these nuts. Many nuts are good for you. Dr. Sabaté’s favorite nut harkens back to his childhood.

“I was raised in Barcelona, Spain, and the hazelnut is a very common nut there. And I love to have these freshly roasted hazelnuts,” he says.

By Heather Reifsnyder

TODAY news for Thursday, October 15, 2007