Studies indicate a positive association between walnut intake and improvements in plasma lipids. We evaluated the effect of an isocaloric replacement of macronutrients with walnuts and the time point of consumption on plasma lipids. We included 194 healthy subjects (134 females, age 63 ± 7 years, BMI 25.1 ± 4.0 kg/m²) in a randomized, controlled, prospective, cross-over study. Following a nut-free run-in period, subjects were randomized to two diet phases (8 weeks each). Ninety-six subjects first followed a walnut-enriched diet (43 g walnuts/day) and then switched to a nut-free diet. Ninety-eight subjects followed the diets in reverse order. Subjects were also randomized to either reduce carbohydrates (n = 62), fat (n = 65), or both (n = 67) during the walnut diet, and instructed to consume walnuts either as a meal or as a snack. The walnut diet resulted in a significant reduction in fasting cholesterol (walnut vs.
Control: -8.5 ± 37.2 vs. -1.1 ± 35.4 mg/dL; p = 0.002), non-HDL cholesterol (-10.3 ± 35.5 vs. -1.4 ± 33.1 mg/dL; p ≤ 0.001), LDL-cholesterol (-7.4 ± 32.4 vs. -1.7 ± 29.7 mg/dL; p = 0.029), triglycerides (-5.0 ± 47.5 vs. 3.7 ± 48.5 mg/dL; p = 0.015) and apoB (-6.7 ± 22.4 vs. -0.5 ± 37.7; p ≤ 0.001), while HDL-cholesterol and lipoprotein (a) did not change significantly. Neither macronutrient replacement nor time point of consumption significantly affected the effect of walnuts on lipids. Thus, 43 g walnuts/d improved the lipid profile independent of the recommended macronutrient replacement and the time point of consumption.
Keywords: carbohydrate; cardiovascular disease; cholesterol; fat; lipids; macronutrient replacement; n-3-PUFA; nuts; walnuts.