The next time you plan your menu for the week, make sure you can add some walnuts. The preliminary result of a two-year study suggests that these nuts can help delay age-related health problems without adversely affecting weight.

Walnuts, which have been branded by some health experts as superfood, are an excellent source of protein that can keep hunger pangs at bay and fiber that promotes better digestion. However, many also believe that walnuts contain high calories that can result to weight gain.

The initial findings of the research by investigators of Loma Linda University and Hospital Clinic of Barcelona reveal that not only is the weight gain minimal, eating a handful of walnuts regularly can also reduce cholesterol levels significantly, especially among middle-aged adults.

The Walnuts and Healthy Aging Study (WAHA) followed 707 patients between the ages of 60 and 82 years old with no uncontrolled diabetes or hypertension, walnut allergies, and obesity. Among the participants, 260 consumed walnuts on a regular basis while the others served as a control group. All of them didn't receive any advice regarding their overall calorie or macronutrient intake, as well as walnut substitutes.

After a year of the study, their data showed that both the walnut eaters and the nut-free groups gained some weight and experienced changes in cholesterol markers like total cholesterol, triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. However, when the numbers were compared, those who ate walnuts had higher reduction in cholesterol.

Further, this effect on older patients "is maintained in the long term," said Dr. Emilio Ros, one of the study doctors from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona.

"It's encouraging to see that eating walnuts may benefit this particular population," he added.

Previous studies have already illustrated that consistent walnut consumption have several potential health benefits including reducing the risks of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which are two of the leading causes of long-term morbidity and death in the United States.

This health benefit of walnut may be largely due to its high content of omega-3 fatty acid, a chain of amino acids associated with reduced chronic inflammation and management of metabolic syndromes.

The WAHA study was presented at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, California.

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