University Park, PA—A recent report published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition indicates that walnut oil and walnuts may improve one’s reaction to stress. Sheila G. West from Pennsylvania State university and her team examined how foods containing polyunsaturated fats (such as walnuts) can positively affect blood pressure at times of rest and during times of stress.

The study group consisted of 22 healthy adults with elevated LDL (bad cholesterol) cholesterol levels. Meals and snacks containing walnut-rich foods were given for six weeks; af ter a one-week washout period, an average American diet was given for six weeks. Finally, after another one-week break, they ate walnut-rich and flax oilrich foods. Each of the three diets contained the same amount of calories and were custom made for each participant.

To test their stress, participants either immersed their foot in cold water or delivered a speech before a group. Evidence suggests that both walnut oil and walnuts lowered resting blood pressure and blood pressure responses to stress. “This is the first study to show that walnuts and walnut oil reduce blood pressure during stress,” says West.

When flax oil was added to the walnut diet, the participants had especially positive markers of heart health. The combination lowered the c-reactive protein, thereby suggesting an anti-inflammatory effect.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, December 2010