Going nuts in your diet can be good for your health, according to a study published Monday, which showed that eating nuts helps to lower blood cholesterol levels.
People who ate an average of 67 grams (2.4 ounces) of nuts a day saw a 5.1 percent fall in total cholesterol concentration and a 7.4 percent drop in low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) -- sometimes referred to as bad cholesterol -- concentration compared to no-nut eaters, the study showed.
People with high triglyceride levels who ate nuts saw a 10.2 percent fall in those blood lipid levels, said the study, which analyzed data from 25 trials conducted in seven countries, involving 583 men and women aged 19-86 with high or normal cholesterol levels.
All the trial data that were analyzed for the study compared nut-eaters to a control group that did not eat nuts. None of the participants were taking medication to lower their blood lipids.
Researchers led by Dr Joan Sabate of Loma Linda University in California found in the study published Monday in the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine that the benefits to health were the same no matter what nut is eaten.
A person's weight and baseline LDL cholesterol levels did, however, influence whatever benefits might be derived from eating nuts.
The higher the starting LDL-C, the greater the cholesterol-lowering effects of nuts, the study found.
And the lower a patient's body mass index -- in other words, if the patient was not overweight or obese -- the greater the effects of nuts on lowering cholesterol levels, the study found, urging more research to determine why nuts are less effective in lowering the blood cholesterol levels of obese people.
A person's diet also played a role in the effect nuts have on blood cholesterol levels.
Consumers of Western diets, which are high in saturated fat, got more benefits from nut-eating than those who already ate a healthy diet, high in monounsaturated olive oil, fish and fresh fruit and vegetables, the study found.
And there's more good news: the data analyzed for the study showed that the benefits of eating nuts remain with us for a long time; that nut consumption appears to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes; and, in spite of their high fat content, nuts don't necessarily make us fat.
"Research has shown that frequent nut consumption does not lead to weight gain," said the study.
"Increasing the consumption of nuts as part of an otherwise prudent diet can be expected to favorably affect blood lipid levels... and have the potential to lower coronary heart disease risk," it concluded.