Hazelnut Heart HealthOctober 4, 2010 Written by JP [Font too small?]
It’s a very common scenario that plays out in doctors’ offices around the world. A patient sits on an examination table and their physician sternly alerts them that their cholesterol level is slowly creeping upward and may soon need to be controlled with medication. From a natural health perspective, there are many options one can employ to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Eating a daily serving or two of nuts tops the list. The beauty of this strategy is that you don’t necessarily need to make other lifestyle changes to accomplish your objective. My Healthy Monday tip of the week is to consider adding a specific member of the tree nut family – hazelnuts or filberts – to your natural cholesterol-lowering regimen.
The September 29th edition of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that adding 30 grams of hazelnuts to one’s diet is likely to result in: a) an elevation of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and Vitamin E; b) a decline in LDL cholesterol and the total cholesterol-to-HDL ratio (TC:HDL-C); c) a reduction in a cardiovascular risk factor known as apo B100. These findings are based on a 4 week trial involving 48 mildly hypercholesterolemic patients. The inclusion of supplemental hazelnuts did not result in weight gain. (1)
Nutritionists and physicians are very hesitant to place too much importance on the outcome of a solitary study. They much prefer having corroborative evidence to support initial findings. As it turns out, there are several previous trials that help to make a fairly strong case for using hazelnuts to support cardiovascular health.
- A study appearing in the February 2007 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of an 8-week intervention involving 15 hypercholesterolemic, middle-aged men who consumed 40 grams of hazelnuts daily. Once again, the weight of the participants remained stable although the hazelnuts accounted for 11.6% of total daily caloric intake. In addition, VLDL cholesterol declined by 29.5%, triglycerides by 31.8% and apolipoprotein B by 9.2%. The cardioprotective HDL cholesterol fraction increased by 12.6%. (2)
- A trial published earlier this year goes on to document another positive attribute of hazelnut intake. It appears to shield against LDL cholesterol oxidation. This is a process that contributes to damage to the arteries and plaque build-up. The study in question lasted 4 weeks and employed 1 gram of hazelnuts per kilogram of weight as a therapeutic dosage. For a man or women weighing 150 lbs, this would translate into 68 grams or just over 2 ounces of hazelnuts daily. Another interesting finding of this study is that hazelnuts beneficially shifted the make-up of LDL cholesterol. The ratio of large-to-small LDL improved substantially. (3)
- A study in the December 2009 issue of Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases found that providing high-risk patients with metabolic syndrome with 30 grams of mixed nuts daily effectively lowered abdominal obesity, blood pressure, body weight, insulin resistance, LDL cholesterol and an inflammatory marker (IL-6). The mixed nut blend consisted of 15 grams of walnuts, 7.5 grams of almonds and 7.5 grams of hazelnuts. (4)
In my opinion, the best way to enjoy hazelnuts is in their raw form. Roasting decreases the levels of certain antioxidants naturally found in the skins, such as condensed tannins and gallic acid. But if you can’t find raw hazelnuts, don’t be too concerned. Fortunately, even roasted hazelnuts contain only small amounts of the suspected carcinogen, acrylamide. What’s more, many of the health benefits are still present after the roasting process. As is often the case, the skins contain the most abundant source of protective compounds. In the case of hazelnuts, this includes the health promoting phytochemicals caffeic acid, coumaric acid, ferulic acid and sinapic acid. On the other hand, the kernels tend to present more nutrient-based components, including choline, dietary fiber, folic acid, monounsaturated fats, potassium, protein, Vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols) and Vitamin K. (5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12)
You might be wondering why I’m recommending hazelnuts today instead of almonds, pecans or walnuts. Eating a variety of nuts and seeds is highly advisable. Nutritional variety is a principle with which most people are familiar when it comes to selecting produce. As healthy as broccoli or spinach is, you wouldn’t want to eat it as your only source of vegetables. Eating a spectrum of vegetables ensures that you’ll take in a comprehensive mix of nutrients and phytochemicals. The key is to devise a list of the most nutrient dense foods in any given category, then pick and choose within that grouping without frequent repetition. The side benefit of doing so is that you’re much less likely to get bored with your food choices.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
Tags: Cholesterol, Nuts, Triglycerides
Posted in Food and Drink, Heart Health, Nutrition