Epidemiological studies suggest that the incidence of CVD and postmenopausal osteoporosis is low in the Mediterranean area, where herbs and nuts, among others, play an important role in nutrition. In the present study, we sought a role of walnuts (Juglans regia L.) in endothelial and bone-cell function. As the endothelial cell expression of adhesion molecules has been recognised as an early step in inflammation and atherogenesis, we examined the effect of walnut methanolic extract and ellagic acid, one of its major polyphenolic components (as shown by HPLC analysis), on the expression of vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM)-1 and intracellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1 in human aortic endothelial cells. After incubating the cells with TNF-alpha (1 ng/ml) in the absence and in the presence of walnut extract (10-200 microg/ml) or ellagic acid (10- 7-10- 5 m), the VCAM-1 and ICAM-1 expression was quantified by cell-ELISA. We further evaluated the effect of walnut extract (10-50 microg/ml), in comparison with ellagic acid (10- 9-10- 6m), on nodule formation in the osteoblastic cell line KS483. Walnut extract and ellagic acid decreased significantly the TNF-alpha-induced endothelial expression of both VCAM-1 and ICAM-1 (P < 0.01; P < 0.001). Both walnut extract (at 10-25 microg/ml) and ellagic acid (at 10- 9-10- 8 m) induced nodule formation in KS483 osteoblasts. The present results suggest that the walnut extract has a high anti-atherogenic potential and a remarkable osteoblastic activity, an effect mediated, at least in part, by its major component ellagic acid. Such findings implicate the beneficial effect of a walnut-enriched diet on cardioprotection and bone loss.