Background: Epidemiologic studies show an inverse relation between nut consumption and coronary heart disease.
Objective: We determined the effects of walnut intake on plasma fatty acids, lipoproteins, and lipoprotein subclasses in patients with combined hyperlipidemia.
Design: Participants sequentially adhered to the following diets: 1) a habitual diet (HD), 2) a habitual diet plus walnuts (HD+W), 3) a low-fat diet (LFD), and 4) a low-fat diet plus walnuts (LFD+W).
Results: In 13 postmenopausal women and 5 men ( +/- SD age 60 +/- 8 y), walnut supplementation did not increase body weight despite increased energy intake and the LFD caused weight loss (1.3 +/- 0.5 kg; P < 0.01). When comparing the HD with the HD+W, linoleic acid concentrations increased from 29.94 +/- 1.14% to 36.85 +/- 1.13% and alpha-linolenic acid concentrations increased from 0.78 +/- 0.04% to 1.56 +/- 0.11%. During the LFD+W, plasma total cholesterol concentrations decreased by 0.58 +/- 0.16 mmol/L when compared with the HD and by 0.46 +/- 0.14 mmol/L when compared with the LFD. LDL-cholesterol concentrations decreased by 0.46 +/- 0.15 mmol/L when compared with the LFD. Measurements of lipoprotein subclasses and particle size suggested that walnut supplementation lowered cholesterol preferentially in small LDL (46.1 +/- 1.9% compared with 33.4 +/- 4.3%, HD compared with HD+W, respectively; P < 0.01). HDL-cholesterol concentrations decreased from 1.27 +/- 0.07 mmol/L during the HD to 1.14 +/- 0.07 mmol/L during the HD+W and to 1.11 +/- 0.08 mmol/L during the LFD. The decrease was seen primarily in the large HDL particles.
Conclusions: Walnut supplementation may beneficially alter lipid distribution among various lipoprotein subclasses even when total plasma lipids do not change. This may be an additional mechanism underlying the antiatherogenic properties of nut intake.