Want to lose weight and lower your cholesterol? Eat walnuts

ISLAMABAD: Forget salads and green tea – it seems walnuts may be the key to losing weight. Scientists have found that eating a diet rich in walnuts and olive oil can lead to the same amount of weight loss as a lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet.

Even better, walnuts, which are rich in polyunsaturated fats, are beneficial to heart health and lower cholesterol, they say.

In light of the findings, the study recommends eating a handful of them a day.

A diet rich in walnuts and olive oil can lead to the same amount of weight loss as a lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet, new research has revealed

Study author Dr Cheryl Rock, of the San Diego School of Medicine at the University of California, said she was surprised by the results.

‘One of the surprising findings of this study was even though walnuts are higher in fat and calories, the walnut-rich diet was associated with the same degree of weight loss as a lower fat diet.

‘Considering the results of this study, as well as previous walnut research on heart health and weight, there’s something to be said for eating a handful of walnuts a day.’

To come to this conclusion, the team studied 245 overweight and obese women aged between 22 and 72, who were enrolled in a one-year weight loss programme.

They were randomly assigned to three different diets: a lower fat and higher carbohydrate diet; a lower carbohydrate and higher fat diet, or a walnut-rich, higher fat and lower carbohydrate diet.

Those prescribed a walnut-rich diet consumed around 43g (1.5 ounces) of the nuts a day – about a handful and a half.

After six months, women across all groups lost an average of nearly eight per cent of their initial weight.

Those eating a walnut-rich diet lost similar amounts of weight to the other groups – but also showed more improvements in their cholesterol levels when compared to the other two groups.

Those eating a walnut-rich diet lost similar amounts of weight to the other groups – but also showed more improvements in their cholesterol levels when compared to the other two groups.

Specifically, the level of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol fell, while ‘good’ HDL cholesterol increased.

This was especially noticeable in the women who were insulin-resistant, a precursor of diabetes.

The key to these findings, the researchers believe, is that the low-carb high-fat diet group were  encouraged to consume foods higher in monounsaturated fats, found in a variety of foods and oils.

Studies show eating foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease the risk of heart disease.

However, the walnut-rich diet provided more polyunsaturated fats.

Snacking on just half a handful of nuts a day can cut the risk of dying from a string of major diseases.

Researchers at Maastricht University found eating at least 10g of nuts or peanuts per day led to a lower risk of dying from respiratory disease, such as asthma  and emphysema, and neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.

It also reduced the risk of diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases, which include heart attacks and strokes.

However, researchers found no protective effect from eating peanut butter.

They explained this may be because the salt and vegetable oils it contains ‘cancel out’ the beneficial effects of the nuts.

Walnuts are the only nut in which the fat is primarily polyunsaturated, including a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

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