Nut Consumption and Blood Lipids.




Journal of Nutrition

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Hyperlipidemia
Professional Data: Hyperlipidemia


If your health professional says you have hyperlipidemia, this simply means the amount of fat in your blood is higher than it should be. High blood cholesterol gets the most attention because of the link between cholesterol and heart disease. Cholesterol has received a great deal of press, and medical experts agree that high blood cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. But cholesterol is not an enemy. The body needs cholesterol and manufactures its own supply. Essential for life, cholesterol plays many important roles. Cholesterol, along with other fats, is a key component of cells membranes. The body uses cholesterol as the building material for hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Bile salts, which break the fat we eat into small particles that can be digested, are composed largely of cholesterol. Cholesterol is our friend, something the body requires, in the right places and amounts.

The first and most important step for reducing cholesterol is to change the diet. Most low fat, low protein diets that are designed to improve cardiovascular risk are also a high-carbohydrate (no matter what the source) diet. This type of diet has proven to actually increase LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Many foods labeled "cholesterol free" actually contain hydrogenated oils or trans-fatty acids, which have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.1

Numerous studies have linked higher nut consumption to a lower risk of coronary heart disease. These nuts include almonds, peanuts, walnuts, and pecans. A recent review study published in the Journal of Nutrition examined 23 studies on nut consumption and blood fat levels. After reviewing these studies, the results showed that all four nuts mentioned above reduced total cholesterol by 2 to 16% and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) cholesterol was reduced by 2 to 19%. However, macadamia nuts did not show any significant results. The authors concluded that eating 50 to 100 grams 5 times a week as part of a heart-healthy diet may help cholesterol levels in those with normal or high cholesterol levels.2


1. Lichtenstein A. Trans-fatty acids, blood lipids, and cardiovascular risk: where do we stand? Nutrition Reviews. 1993;51(1):340-3.

2. Mukuddem-Peterson J, et al. A Systematic Review of the Effects of Nuts on Blood Lipid Profiles in Humans. J Nutr. Sept 2005;135:2082-9.