Mediterranean diet + walnuts may reduce cardiovascular disease risk

February 25, 2013

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that a Mediterranean diet including nuts may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (myocardial infarction, stroke or cardiovascular death).

The trial included 7,447 individuals (ages 55–80) participating in the Spanish PREDIMED (PREvención con DIeta MEDiterranea) trial, who were at high cardiovascular risk. They were followed for an average of 4.8 years. Participants were randomized into one of three intervention diets: low-fat diet (control group), Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil (50 mL per day), or a Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 g mixed nuts, primarily walnuts, per day. The researchers found that a Mediterranean diet including nuts, primarily walnuts, reduced the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 30% and specifically reduced the risk of stroke by 49% when compared to a reference diet consisting of advice on a low-fat diet. In addition to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, the research found that the Mediterranean diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil also reduced the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 30%.

Co-investigator Emilio Ros believes that the unique nutrient profile of walnuts may be a key factor responsible for the benefits reported in the PREDIMED study. “In addition to being the only nut containing significant amounts of alpha-linolenic acid—the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid—walnuts offer numerous antioxidants and additional nutrients that, I believe, work together synergistically to produce their cardiovascular protective effect,” said Ros.