I am just back (on the red eye, no less) from the annual Scientific Advisory Committee meeting of the California Walnut Commission held in Napa Valley. If you could live in Napa Valley, why would you live anywhere else? If you've been, you know what I mean.
The California Walnut Commission is the trade group representing walnut growers in the U.S., most of whom have their ranches in California. The commission is involved in some marketing, messaging and PR -- but overwhelmingly oversees the research agenda examining the health effects of walnut intake. And that, of course, is where I come in -- and why I was at the meeting.
My lab has completed two studies of walnuts, and I was in Napa to present the second, as well as to participate in discussions of future research priorities.
Our first study, published in Diabetes Care in 2010, showed that adding walnuts to the daily diet of adults with Type 2 diabetes for two months significantly improved blood vessel health, as measured by something called endothelial function.
Well known to clinicians, especially cardiologists, and to researchers, endothelial function is not generally familiar to the public at large. In brief, ultrasound is used to measure the ability of blood vessels to dilate when they should. Normal endothelial function is a very strong indicator of low heart disease risk; endothelial dysfunction portends the converse.
Walnuts added to the diet improve endothelial function in Type 2 diabetes. Our study also showed that even though we were adding walnuts, and thus calories, to the diet -- weight gain did not result. Our study subjects did not gain weight, because they made room in their diets for the walnut calories.