Researchers who reviewed 20 years of diet history and 30 years of physical and clinical measurements have found participants who ate walnuts early on in life showed a greater likelihood for being more physically active, having a higher quality diet, and experiencing a better heart disease risk profile as they aged into middle adulthood.
Handful of walnuts square
These novel findings come from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA),1 a long-term and ongoing study that is supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health and aimed at examining the development of heart disease risk factors over time.
This study is one of the longest to suggest that the simple act of adding about a handful of heart-healthy walnuts into the diet often could act as a bridge to other health-promoting lifestyle habits later in life.
The findings also reinforce that walnuts might be an easy and accessible food choice to improve a variety of heart disease risk factors when eaten in young to middle adulthood.
In this recent study published in Nutrition, Metabolism, & Cardiovascular Diseases,2 University of Minnesota School of Public Health researchers note that a possible explanation for the results could be due to the unique combination of nutrients found in walnuts and their effect on health outcomes.
Walnuts are the only tree nut that is an excellent source of the plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (2.5 grams/28g), which research shows may play a role in heart health, brain health and healthy aging.3,4 Additionally, just one serving of walnuts (28g), or about a handful, contains a variety of other important nutrients to support overall health including 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and a good source of magnesium (45 milligrams). Walnuts also offer a variety of antioxidants, including polyphenols.
According to Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Lead Researcher on CARDIA, Lyn M. Steffen, PhD, MPH, RD, “Walnut eaters seem to have a unique body phenotype that carries with it other positive impacts on health like better diet quality, especially when they start eating walnuts from young into middle adulthood – as risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes elevates.”
This study is one of the longest to suggest that adding about a handful of walnuts to the diet every day and early on in life could be linked with benefits to overall diet quality as a heart-healthy “carrier food” that fits into any eating occasion.
About California Walnut Commission
The California Walnut Commission, established in 1987, is funded by mandatory assessments of the growers. The Commission is an agency of the State of California that works in concurrence with the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The CWC is mainly involved in health research and export market development activities.
For more industry information, health research and recipe ideas, visit www.californiawalnuts.in.
Steffen LM, Yi SY, Duprez D, Zhou X, Shikany JM, Jacobs DR Jr. Walnut consumption and cardiac phenotypes: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2021;31(1):95-101.
Yi SY, et al. Association of nut consumption with CVD risk factors in young to middle-aged adults: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study (published online ahead of print July 30, 2022). Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2022.07.013.
Sala-Vila A, et al. Impact of α-linolenic acid, the vegetable omega-3 fatty acid, on cardiovascular disease and cognition (published online ahead of print February 16, 2022). Advances in Nutrition. doi:10.1093/advances/nmac016.
Sala-Vila A, et al. Effect of a 2-year diet intervention with walnuts on cognitive decline. The Walnuts And Healthy Aging (WAHA) study: A randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nut. 2020;111(3):590–600.