Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in our country.. Especially among women: every eight minutes a Spanish citizen dies for this cause, according to figures from the Spanish Society of Cardiology. Many factors influence the health of the heart, and an important one is the nutrition. In fact, people who eat diets high in fat and cholesterol are more likely to develop conditions that can lead to heart disease. To help reduce risk, we should choose diets low in fat, sugar, and salt, with lean meats. Avoiding processed foods or foods high in trans fats can also help.
A handful of nuts daily it can become a great ally for our health. There are numerous scientific studies that support this habit for years, but now there is new evidence that confirms an additional benefit to the intake of this type of food. Specifically, of the walnuts.
Since walnuts have scientifically proven benefits for heart health, researchers led by Kristina S. Petersen, a professor at Texas Tech University (United States) conducted a study to analyze their impact on the gut microbiome. The conclusions of her work were presented yesterday at Discover DMB, the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. And they suggest that the heart-healthy benefits of walnuts may be related to what they cause beneficial changes in the mix of microbes found in our gut.
“Research has shown that walnuts may have beneficial effects on the heart, such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels“, explains Mansi Chandra, a researcher at Juniata College in Huntingdon and co-author of the study. “This motivated us to study how they benefited the gut microbiome. Our findings represent a new mechanism through which walnuts can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases,” he concludes.
Effects of eating a cup of nuts a day
To test this, the researchers assigned diets to three groups of people. In total, 42 people participated. The first group ate whole walnuts and was dubbed the “walnut diet group.” It was made up of patients who they ate between 57 and 99 grams of walnuts a day, about a cup of walnuts. The second group consumed the same amounts of alpha-linolenic omega-3 fatty acid found in walnuts. without eating nuts. This was the “control diet.” The third group was assigned to consume oleic acid, also without eating nuts.
After 6 weeks of diet, the researchers collected stool samples from the participants and performed a genetic analysis of the gut microbiota of each group. With this, they were able to determine if there were higher or lower levels of certain bacteria. The results showed that people who ate the walnut diet had higher levels of the amino acid L-homoarginine in your intestines. Since people with lower levels of homoarginine are at greater risk suffering from cardiovascular disease, this finding showed that it might be possible to improve heart health through dietary changes that affect the gut.
In addition, they found higher levels of Gordonibacter bacteria in the walnut diet group. This bacterium is responsible for metabolizing plant compounds. The researchers also observed higher levels of gene expression in pathways related to the amino acid L-homoarginine in the walnut diet group. In addition, they found that the participants experienced improvements on their dysbiosis index (the ratio of bad bacteria to good bacteria) values after following their diets for 6 weeks.
Although the group of participants in the study was small, the results suggest the possibility of improving the risk of cardiovascular disease through dietary changes that affect the gut. Additionally, this work could help identify other foods or supplements with similar nutritional benefits. Although scientists know that certain foods improve heart health, many questions remain to be answered, such as how this occurs and what other foods exist that can reduce cardiovascular risk.
The role of the gut microbiome
A healthy gut microbiome is essential for good health. The gut microbiota is a group of microorganisms that colonize the gastrointestinal tract. Some estimates suggest that there are 1,013 bacteria in the human gastrointestinal tract, roughly as many as there are human cells in the body.
Sometimes, diseases or lifestyle can cause changes in the gut microbiome and make the bad bacteria outnumber the good ones. The gut microbiome is believed to play an important role in human health, influencing the development of chronic diseases ranging from metabolic diseases to gastrointestinal disorders and colorectal cancer.
There are ways to improve gut health, such as take probiotic supplements to rebalance the gut microbiome. Among the foods that can be consumed to contribute to this are yogurt, pickled vegetables and kombucha tea.