FEB 07, 2023 10:00 AM PST

Snacking on tree nuts could reduce cardiovascular disease risk

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

When it comes to eating healthy, what’s your go to snack? If you answered nuts, you’re doing great.

A new study conducted by researchers at UCLA published in Nutrients sheds new light on the cardiovascular benefits of snacking on tree nuts, especially when replacing other snacks with a serving of tree nuts. Researchers also found that tree nuts had a surprising effect: boosting levels of serotonin.

General dietary guidance suggests that eating small amounts of tree nuts (which includes almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, and many more) can have a beneficial impact on your health, particularly heart health. For example, studies have connected nut consumption to increased levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind).

The study published in Nutrients expands on these findings by highlighting the health benefits of tree nuts in people who were already overweight or obese and seeking to lose weight. Specifically, researcher examined the connection between tryptophan production and nut consumption.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that plays a number of roles in the diet, though as an essential amino acid, humans must get it from what we eat. Fortunately, it’s found in tree nuts. Tryptophan can help produce and protect a range of molecules in the body, including proteins and enzymes. In the study, researchers followed 95 people overweight individuals who ate about 1.5 ounces of nuts, and found that eating tree nuts has a beneficial effect on the production tryptophan, including tryptophan metabolites with cardiovascular protective properties. Researchers looked specifically at the interaction of tryptophan and the gut, where tryptophan is metabolized.

Researchers also noticed a rather surprising finding that had nothing to do with their initial focus on cardiovascular protection. After analyzing blood samples from participants, researchers noticed a significant increase in serotonin levels in participants, both during the active weight loss phase of the study and the weight maintenance stage. Specifically, researchers noted a 60% increase at 12 weeks and an 82% increase at 24 weeks.

The team highlights how important nut consumption can be. Given the prevalence of sugar snacks and drinks, replacing even one of these foods with nuts each day could offer many of the above benefits.

Sources: Eurekalert!; Nutrients

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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