HILO, Hawaii—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the petition of Royal Hawaiian Orchards allowing it to claim that consuming macadamia nuts can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease under certain circumstances. The decision follows nearly two years of FDA review and affects the entire macadamia nut industry.

While the FDA previously approved a qualified health claim for the consumption of other tree nuts, this week's announcement is the first time the agency has extended a qualified health claim to macadamia nuts specifically, according to a press release from Royal Hawaiian Orchards.

The following statement may now be applied in connection to the consumption of whole or chopped macadamia nuts, including raw, blanched, roasted, salted or unsalted, and/or lightly coated and/or flavored macadamia nuts:

“Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day of macadamia nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and not resulting in increased intake of saturated fat or calories may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”

“This is a truly a historic day for everyone in the macadamia nut industry,” said Scott Wallace of Royal Hawaiian Macadamia Nut. “Consumers are aware of the benefits of consuming other tree nuts like almonds and walnuts, and we want them to know similar benefits are available from consuming macadamia nuts.”

Macadamia nuts have no cholesterol and are high in monounsaturated fats—the same healthy fats found in olive oil and avocados, which are known to help reduce bad cholesterol levels and can lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

Scientists first discovered that adding macadamia nuts to the diet appeared to lower the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood during the 1990s and 2000s. Since then, researchers have been exploring the connection, resulting in a growing body of scientific evidence supporting that a diet including macadamia nuts can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. One ounce of macadamia nuts (about 15 nuts) is also a source of thiamine and manganese, dietary fiber, copper and protein.

(Published on Whole Foods Magazine Online, 7/26/17)