Nuts and their bioactive constituents: effects on serum lipids and other factors that affect disease risk

Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):504S-511S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/70.3.504s.


Because nuts have favorable fatty acid and nutrient profiles, there is growing interest in evaluating their role in a heart-healthy diet. Nuts are low in saturated fatty acids and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. In addition, emerging evidence indicates that there are other bioactive molecules in nuts that elicit cardioprotective effects. These include plant protein, dietary fiber, micronutrients such as copper and magnesium, plant sterols, and phytochemicals. Few feeding studies have been conducted that have incorporated different nuts into the test diets to determine the effects on plasma lipids and lipoproteins. The total- and lipoprotein-cholesterol responses to these diets are summarized in this article. In addition, the actual cholesterol response was compared with the predicted response derived from the most current predictive equations for blood cholesterol. Results from this comparison showed that when subjects consumed test diets including nuts, there was an approximately 25% greater cholesterol-lowering response than that predicted by the equations. These results suggest that there are non-fatty acid constituents in nuts that have additional cholesterol-lowering effects. Further studies are needed to identify these constituents and establish their relative cholesterol-lowering potency.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Diet*
  • Fats / analysis
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins / blood*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Nuts / chemistry*
  • Nuts / physiology
  • Nuts / therapeutic use
  • Phytotherapy
  • Predictive Value of Tests


  • Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipoproteins
  • Cholesterol