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(4/26/04 12:26 pm)
Walnuts and vascular issues
Walnuts may help repair damaged arteries
March 25 (HeartCenterOnline) - Walnuts, already touted as a good source to help lower bad cholesterol, may also help improve arteries damaged by disease when eaten as part of a healthy, according to a new study.

This is the first time a study found that a whole food - and not its isolated components - can improve cardiovascular health. The Spanish study also found that walnuts may also reduce the progress of atherosclerosis.

Walnuts are rich in monounsaturated fat, which is a healthy type of fat credited with increasing HDL or "good" cholesterol and lowering LDL or "bad" cholesterol. A study published in the March 23 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association showed that walnuts appeared to help restore elasticity in damaged arteries.

A healthy artery is elastic. This means the artery walls can expand if the volume of blood flowing through the artery increases, as it does when the heart beats faster. A damaged artery is rigid and unable to expand to allow increased blood flow. Someone whose heart beats faster during exertion may not get the oxygen-rich blood the body needs. This condition is called endothelial dysfunction. (Endothelial is the artery's muscular lining.)

Eaten as part of a healthy Mediterranean diet, walnuts appear to help arteries dilate. Walnuts have a high content of a specific type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha- linolenic acid. This substance appears to help improve elasticity. In addition, walnuts appear to prevent atherosclerosis by reducing the number of harmful cells that can stick to artery walls.

For more information on diet, nutrition and heart disease, see the following HeartCenterOnline topic center:
Diet & Nutrition Center

Publish Date: March 25, 2004

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