Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Walnuts and arteries

If you want to make your arteries healthier, exercise can't be beat. Interested in something a little less energetic? You could try adding some walnuts to your diet.

Researchers with Yale University's Prevention Research Center asked two dozen men and women with type 2 diabetes to supplement their usual daily diets with 2 ounces of walnuts — about 30 shelled walnut halves — for eight weeks, then switch to a walnut-free diet (or vice versa). A test of blood flow through an artery in the forearm before and after each eight-week trial showed that walnuts improved the flexibility of the artery, an important measure of arterial health (Diabetes Care, February 2010). Weight, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar didn't change from one diet to the other.

This is just the latest in a string of studies showing that walnuts and other nuts should be thought of as an integral part of our diets, not as a guilty snack. Eating walnuts and other nuts has been linked with protection against heart disease, especially sudden cardiac arrest, while eating almonds has been shown to improve blood sugar levels.

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