Love munching on walnuts? Here's good news for you. According to a latest study, walnuts may do wonders for the good bacteria in your body, and boost both gut and heart health. The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition. The positive changes in the gut microbiome were associated with improvements in some risk factors for heart disease, the study revealed. "Substantial evidence shows that small improvements in diet greatly benefit health. Eating two to three ounces of walnuts a day as part of a healthy diet could be a good way to improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease," said study researcher Kristina Petersen from Penn State University in the US.
About 42 participants with overweight or obesity, between the ages of 30 and 65, were recruited for the study. Before the study began, participants were placed on an average American diet for two weeks. Followed by the "run-in" diet, participants were randomly assigned to one of three study diets, all of which consisted of less saturated fat than the run-in diet.
The diets included one that incorporated whole walnuts, one that included the same amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids without walnuts, and one that partially substituted oleic acid (another fatty acid) for the same amount of ALA found in walnuts, without any walnuts. It must be noted that in all the three diets, walnuts or vegetable oils replaced saturated fat, and all participants were made to follow each diet for six weeks with a break between diet periods.
Researchers collected fecal samples 72 hours before the participants finished the run-in diet and each of the three study diet periods. Through the sample, they analysed the bacteria in gastro-intestinal tract.
"The walnut diet enriched a number of gut bacteria that have been associated with health benefits in the past," Petersen said. "One of those is Roseburia, which has been associated with protection of the gut lining. We also saw enrichment in Eubacteria eligens and Butyricicoccus," Petersen added.
After the walnut diet, significant associations between changes in gut bacteria and risk factors for heart disease were also observed.
The researchers said that Eubacterium eligens was inversely associated with changes in several different measures of blood pressure. Greater numbers of Eubacterium eligens was linked with greater reductions in those risk factors.
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