Prepared Foods October 31, 2005 e-newsletter

Researchers have investigated the cholesterol-lowering effects of nuts compared with a canola oil-enriched cereal of similar fat composition.

According to recent research published in the journal Nutrition Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, "Small quantities of nuts protect against subsequent cardiovascular risk. There is speculation that the cholesterol-lowering effect associated with nut consumption arises primarily from the fatty acid composition of nuts but may be caused by some other component."

A. Chisholm and colleagues of the University of Otago in New Zealand wrote, "To evaluate this possibility, we compared the effect of various nuts against a canola oil-based cereal with a comparable fatty acid profile on lipids, lipoproteins and fatty acids to determine whether the fatty acid profile of nuts explains their cholesterol-lowering effects."

"Twenty-eight men and women with mean (s.d.) levels of total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol of 6.0 (1.1) mmol/L, and 4.1 (1.0) mmol/L, respectively and a mean body mass index (BMI) of 26.9 (3.2) kg/m took part in a randomized crossover trial. For two periods of six weeks, separated by a four-week washout, participants were asked to consume a low-saturated-fat diet, which included either 30g/d nuts (nut diet) or one serving of a cereal containing canola oil (cereal diet)," the scientists explained.

They reported, "There were no significant differences in the lipids, lipoproteins, plasma fatty acids or other variables between the two diets at the end of the study. Total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) were lower on both experimental diets than at baseline, 0.51 mmol/L and 0.40 mmol/L (p<0.001, p<0.01), respectively on the nut diet and 0.42 mmol/L and 0.37 mmol/L (p<0.001, p<0.01), respectively on the cereal diet."

"A 30g serving of nuts, or a serving of a canola oil-enriched cereal with a similar fatty acid composition, reduced total and LDL cholesterol to a similar extent when consumed as part of a lipid-lowering diet. Results suggest that foods with a similar fatty acid composition to nuts can produce comparable decreases in lipoprotein mediated cardiovascular risk," the authors concluded.

Chisholm and colleagues published their study in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases (“Cholesterol-lowering Effects of Nuts Compared with a Canola Oil Enriched Cereal of Similar Fat Composition.” Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 2005;15(4):284-292).

For additional information, contact A. Chisholm, University of Otago, Department of Human Nutrition, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand;