Eating a handful of tree nuts, such as the much-favored walnut, has been linked yet again to reduced cardiovascular disease risk.

This new research from the California Walnut Commission, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that consuming tree nuts lowered total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and ApoB, the main protein found in LDL - key factors in evaluating cardiovascular risk.

Walnuts were part of 21 out of 61 trials, more than any other tree nut investigated in the study.

Study author Dr. Michael Falk of Life Sciences Research Organization explained that tree nuts offer important nutrients including unsaturated fats, proteins, and vitamins and minerals.

"Walnuts are the only nut that provide a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based form of omega-3s," he said, pointing out the nut's 2.5 grams of ALA per one-ounce serving.

The researchers also discovered that eating at least two ounces of tree nuts a day had a better impact on total cholesterol and LDL, and that the effects may be particularly beneficial for type 2 diabetes patients.

More than 2,500 participants of the trials took nut amounts varying from five to 100 grams a day, with most of them sticking to their typical diet.

A body of research worth over two decades vouches for the benefits of walnuts, which may help reduce cardiovascular disease risk through decreased LDL by 9 to 16 percent and diastolic blood pressure by 2 to 3 mmHg. This nut has also been found to raise HDL or "good" cholesterol and arterial function, and reduce inflammation through C-reactive protein measure.

"These factors are major contributors to heart disease risk, and reducing them is a critical step toward a healthier heart," wrote the researchers, which included Dr. Liana Del Gobbo, Robin Feldman, Dr. Kara Lewis, and Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian.

Cardiovascular conditions run the range of heart valve issues, arrhythmia, heart attack, and stroke, many of which relate to atherosclerosis or plaque builds up in the arterial walls.

In the United States, about 610,000 die of heart disease each year, which translates to one in every four deaths. About 735,000 suffer from a heart attack, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Photo: Pauline Mak | Flickr

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