October 04, 2010
Walnut Cut Blood Pressure Stress Response?

Walnuts cut markets for inflammation.

A diet rich in walnuts and walnut oil may prepare the body to deal better with stress, according to a team of Penn State researchers who looked at how these foods, which contain polyunsaturated fats, influence blood pressure at rest and under stress.

Previous studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids -- like the alpha linolenic acid found in walnuts and flax seeds -- can reduce low density lipoproteins (LDL) -- bad cholesterol. These foods may also reduce c-reactive protein and other markers of inflammation.

"People who show an exaggerated biological response to stress are at higher risk of heart disease," said Sheila G. West, associate professor of biobehavioral health. "We wanted to find out if omega 3-fatty acids from plant sources would blunt cardiovascular responses to stress."

Walnuts reduced blood pressure when under stress.

After each diet, the participants underwent two stress tests. In the first test, they received a topic; and they were given two minutes to prepare a three-minute speech, which they presented while being videotaped. The second stressor was a standard physical test of stress consisting of submerging one foot in ice-cold water. Throughout these tests, the researchers took blood pressure readings from the participants.

Results showed that average diastolic blood pressure -- the "bottom number" or the pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting -- was significantly reduced during the diets containing walnuts and walnut oil.

So is nut consumption a good idea? Perhaps in moderation. But keep in mind that our ancestors did not eat nuts in large quantities. We probably didn't evolve to do well with heavy nut consumption.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 October 04 11:01 PM  Aging Diet Heart Studies

Lou Pagnucco said at October 5, 2010 9:46 AM:

It would be interesting to know whether there are additive benefits when a nutraceutical cocktail of walnuts, dark chocolate, beet juice, grape seed extract and hibiscus tea are consumed together since the literature indicates that each individually lowers systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure.

Doug said at October 6, 2010 7:31 PM:

It would be interesting to see if the benefits are also found in other nuts, such as pecans. I was surprised to see when I lived in New England how much the locals preferred the blander-tasting walnuts to the (to us) much richer-tasting pecans. Of course, they also liked something they had up there they called the "New England Boiled Dinner" (shudder).

William O. B'Livion said at October 7, 2010 10:34 PM:

Be careful--some varieties (at least according to nutritiondata.com and other sources) there is a big difference in omega-3 content between different types (black, english) walnuts.

Would suck to eat them for 10 years and find out you had the wrong variety.

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