Background: Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk, although the mechanisms are incompletely understood. In a previous article, we showed significant reductions in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and several markers of inflammation with increasing intake of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from walnuts and flax. Objective: To examine effects of ALA on cardiovascular responses to acute stress, flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the brachial artery, and blood concentrations of endothelin-1 and arginine-vasopressin (AVP). Design: Using a randomized, crossover study design, cardiovascular responses to acute stress were assessed in 20 hypercholesterolemic subjects, a subset of whom also underwent FMD testing (n = 12). Participants were fed an average American diet (AAD) and 2 experimental diets that varied in the amount of ALA and linoleic acid (LA) that they contained. The AAD provided 8.7% energy from PUFA (7.7% LA, 0.8% ALA). On the LA diet, saturated fat was reduced, and PUFA from walnuts and walnut oil provided 16.4% of energy (12.6% LA, 3.6% ALA). On the ALA diet, walnuts, walnut oil, and flax oil provided 17% energy from PUFA (10.5% LA, 6.5% ALA). Results: The ALA and LA diets significantly reduced diastolic blood pressure (−2 to −3 mm Hg) and total peripheral resistance (−4%), and this effect was evident at rest and during stress (main effect of diet, p < 0.02). FMD increased (+34%) on the diet containing additional ALA. AVP also increased by 20%, and endothelin-1 was unchanged. Conclusions: These results suggest novel mechanisms for the cardioprotective effects of walnuts and flax, and further work is needed to identify the bioactives responsible for these effects.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Nutrition and Dietetics