Walnut-Rich Diet: It May Improve Cholesterol Levels, Weight Loss

First Posted: Feb 09, 2016 10:38 PM EST

A walnut-rich diet that's higher in fat showed resulted in better weight-loss when compared to a lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet among overweight and obese women, according to recent findings published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"One of the surprising findings of this study was that even though walnuts are higher in fat and calories, the walnut-rich diet was associated with the same degree of weight loss as a lower fat diet," said Dr. Cheryl Rock of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, in a news release. "Considering the results of this study, as well as previous walnut research on heart health and weight, there's something to be said for eating a handful of walnuts a day."

During the study, researchers examined 245 overweight and obese women between the ages of 22 and 72 who were enrolled in a one-year behavioral weight loss intervention. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three diets: 1) a lower fat and higher carbohydrate diet, 2) a lower carbohydrate and higher fat diet, or 3) a walnut-rich, higher fat and lower carbohydrate diet. Those prescribed a walnut-rich diet consumed 1.5 ounces per day.
Findings showed that the average weight loss was about eight percent of the intial weight for all groups.

While those on the walnut-rich diet participants had comparable weight loss to other groups, they exhibited the most improvements when it came to lipid levels. In addition to a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol, the walnut participants achieved a greater increase in HDL cholesterol as compared to the other diet groups.

Walnuts are the only nut in which the fat is primarily polyunsaturated fat (13g/oz), including a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-derived form of omega-3 fatty acids (2.5g/oz).

However, it's important to remember certain limitations regarding the study, including that the sample only included women. In addition, there is a lack of detailed information about dietary intake and adherence to the diets. 

"In addition to these findings, we hope to explore the effect of walnuts on satiety, as we believe satiety is a critical factor for maintaining weight loss," said Dr. Rock.

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