Diet-NutritionOmega-3 Fatty Acids

Walnuts vs fatty fish for cardiovascular protection

 Walnuts are a plant source of omega-3, while fatty fish is (you guessed it) a marine source of omega-3.

Here’s a comparison of their effects on cholesterol, and a practical application of walnuts to expand the food supply and create functional foods.

First, the details.

  • 25 normal adults with mildly increased cholesterol blood levels consumed 3 diets for 4 weeks each.
    • A control diet (no nuts or fish)
    • A walnut diet (42.5 grams walnuts/10.1 mJ)
    • A fish diet (113 grams salmon, twice/week)
  • Fasting blood samples were drawn at the start of the study and at the end of each diet period.
  • The samples were analyzed for lipid levels.

And, the results.

  • Total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol were significantly lower with the walnut diet vs. the control diet and fish diet.
  • Triglycerides decreased and HDL (good) cholesterol increased significantly with the fish diet vs. the control diet and the walnut diet.
  • The ratios of total:HDL, LDL:HDL, and apolipoprotein B:A-I were significantly lower with the walnut diet vs. the control and fish diets.
    • Lower ratios indicate lower risk of heart attacks.

The bottom line?
While walnuts and fatty fish are sources of omega-3, their effects on cholesterol are complementary.

The authors concluded, “Including walnuts and fatty fish in a healthy diet lowered serum cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, respectively, which affects CHD risk favorably.”

OK, but here’s another application of walnuts with the potential for worldwide nutritional benefits.

In an earlier study, mixing walnuts with “restructured” red meat lowered total and LDL cholesterol blood levels — the same effect as reported in the study summarized above.

Restructuring is a method of transforming less desirable, lower value cuts and quality meat into products of higher value.  It essentially makes better use of the carcass, which otherwise would be wasted.

In effect, it expands the availability of beef products in the marketplace. Adding walnuts to the process improves the nutritional and health benefits of these products and creates a functional food.

4/14/09 10:05 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.