Evidence clearly supports a connection between gut health and brain function. So, when research supports simple approaches that can help maintain a healthy digestive tract, we want to be sure you hear about them. Walnut’s positive effect on heart health has been known for years. This press release, edited for length, is from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. The findings indicate that one way walnuts help the heart is by improving the gut bacteria.
Walnuts may not just be a tasty snack, they may also promote good-for-your-gut bacteria. New research suggests that these “good” bacteria could be contributing to the heart-health benefits of walnuts.
Researchers found that eating walnuts daily as part of a healthy diet was associated with increases in certain bacteria that can help promote health. Additionally, those changes in gut bacteria were associated with improvements in some risk factors for heart disease.
Kristina Petersen, assistant research professor at Penn State, said the study — recently published in The Journal of Nutrition — suggests walnuts may be a heart- and gut-healthy snack.
“Replacing your usual snack — especially if it’s an unhealthy snack — with walnuts is a small change you can make to improve your diet,” Petersen said. “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.” (Editor: One ounce is about 12 good-sized halves.
Previous research has shown that walnuts, when combined with a diet low in saturated fats, may have heart-healthy benefits. For example, previous work demonstrated that eating whole walnuts daily lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Other research has found that changes to the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract — also known as the gut microbiome — may help explain the cardiovascular benefits of walnuts.
“There’s a lot of work being done on gut health and how it affects overall health,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State. “So, in addition to looking at factors like lipids and lipoproteins, we wanted to look at gut health. We also wanted to see if changes in gut health with walnut consumption were related to improvements in risk factors for heart disease.”
“The findings add to what we know about the health benefits of walnuts, this time moving toward their effects on gut health,” author Kris-Etherton said. “The study gives us clues that nuts may change gut health, and now we’re interested in expanding that and looking into how it may affect blood sugar levels.”