SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 15 -- In an important decision issued today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) affirmed the health claim, "Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. See nutrition information for fat content." This FDA decision comes in response to a petition filed by the California Walnut Commission which highlights a body of international scientific research substantiating the specific benefit of consuming walnuts as part of a heart healthy diet in reducing the risk of heart disease. The body of evidence suggests that the nutritional composition of walnuts contribute to these heart health benefits.
According to Dr. Sheila G. West, Vascular Intervention Health Lab, Penn State University, "There is a good amount of epidemiologic evidence, population based evidence that people who consume nuts, and walnuts in particular, have less cardiovascular risk. There is also a very strong body of literature to say that the special kind of fatty acids, the omega-3 fatty acids that are present in walnuts, help protect people against heart disease."
The 1.5 ounces of walnuts cited by the FDA also more than fulfill the daily requirement of essential omega-3 fatty acids, a critical nutrient deficient in the American diet. Among tree nuts, walnuts are distinctive because of their concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. The importance of omega-3 fatty acids has been stressed in the recent reports of leading health organizations and governmental agencies recommending new dietary intake guidelines aimed at promoting public health by encouraging increased omega-3 fatty acid intake by Americans.
While walnuts' ability to reduce cholesterol seems to be at the heart of their health benefits, walnuts contain a host of other important vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants. Walnuts are cited as the largest single source of antioxidants, next to rose hips, according to a study from the University of Minnesota and University of Oslo.
"It appears that the omega-3 ability to reduce inflammation and clumping of platelets may have broad health implications, including the reduction of C- Reactive Protein (CRP) in the body -- an emerging cardiovascular disease marker which can be identified through a simple blood test and help predict heart disease risk," according to Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D, distinguished professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University.
"Walnuts contain a significant amount of the gamma-tocopherol form of Vitamin E," says Terry Hartman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. "This is very interesting given that research from East Tennessee State University on the interactive effects of the two major forms, gamma- and alpha-tocopherol, shows that gamma-tocopherol promotes the cellular uptake of alpha-tocopherol." (Gao et al, Nutrition Journal, 1:2, October 2002)
"Not too long ago, our culture had become totally fat phobic and feared eating foods like walnuts. Now more than 5,000 walnut growers in California are cheering because science has shown walnuts to be an important and healthy part of a daily diet -- truly the 'Mega Nut,'" says Dennis A. Balint, chief executive officer of the California Walnut Commission.
One of the oldest foods, walnuts today are recognized for their flavor, versatility and health benefits. California's walnut industry sets the world quality standard and accounts for more than 99 percent of the commercial U.S. supply and the majority of the world trade. For more information and recipes, visit www.walnuts.org.