Hyperlipidemia is an elevation of one or more of the following: cholesterol, cholesterol esters, phospholipids, or triglycerides. Although cholesterol has received much negative press, in normal quantities, it is essential for life. Cholesterol and triglycerides, as the major plasma lipids, are essential substrates for cell membrane formation, steroidal hormone synthesis, and production of bile acids. Effective management of hypercholesterolemia requires understanding the biochemistry of cholesterol and the importance of cholesterol in normal physiology. In recent years, studies have consistently shown that abnormalities of plasma lipoproteins can result in a predisposition to coronary artery disease, pancreatitis, xanthomas, or neurologic disease. Accumulating evidence has linked elevated total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) to the development of coronary heart disease.
Nuts are rich in plant proteins, fats (especially unsaturated fatty acids), dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and other compounds, such as antioxidants and phytoesterols. Even though nuts are high in fats, it is mostly unsaturated fatty acids and this may lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Nuts are cholesterol-free and contain just a trace of sodium. The FDA recommends up to 1.5 ounces (1/3 cup) of nuts daily or one and a half times a “handful.”
Researchers conducted a pooled analysis of 25 nut consumption trials performed in 7 countries among 583 men and women with hypercholesterolemia or normal cholesterol levels and were not taking cholesterol lowering medications. The participants consumed 67 grams of nuts daily. Results were an average 5.1 percent reduction in total cholesterol concentration, a 7.4 percent reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL-C, or bad cholesterol) and an 8.3 percent change in ratio of LDL cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or good cholesterol). Also, triglyceride levels were reduced by 10.2 percent among subjects with high triglyceride levels. The study authors concluded that consumption of nuts can improve blood lipid levels, thereby, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.1
1 Sabate J, Oda K, Ros E. Nut consumption and blood lipid levels: a pooled analysis of 25 intervention trials. Arch Intern Med. May2010;170(9):821-7.