We sought to investigate whether the addition of walnuts or olive oil to a fatty meal have differential effects on postprandial vasoactivity, lipoproteins, markers of oxidation and endothelial activation, and plasma asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA).
Compared with a Mediterranean diet, a walnut diet has been shown to improve endothelial function in hypercholesterolemic patients. We hypothesized that walnuts would reverse postprandial endothelial dysfunction associated with consumption of a fatty meal.
We randomized in a crossover design 12 healthy subjects and 12 patients with hypercholesterolemia to 2 high-fat meal sequences to which 25 g olive oil or 40 g walnuts had been added. Both test meals contained 80 g fat and 35% saturated fatty acids, and consumption of each meal was separated by 1 week. Venipunctures and ultrasound measurements of brachial artery endothelial function were performed after fasting and 4 h after test meals.
In both study groups, flow-mediated dilation (FMD) was worse after the olive oil meal than after the walnut meal (p = 0.006, time-period interaction). Fasting, but not postprandial, triglyceride concentrations correlated inversely with FMD (r = −0.324; p = 0.024). Flow-independent dilation and plasma ADMA concentrations were unchanged, and the concentration of oxidized low-density lipoproteins decreased (p = 0.051) after either meal. The plasma concentrations of soluble inflammatory cytokines and adhesion molecules decreased (p < 0.01) independently of meal type, except for E-selectin, which decreased more (p = 0.033) after the walnut meal.
Adding walnuts to a high-fat meal acutely improves FMD independently of changes in oxidation, inflammation, or ADMA. Both walnuts and olive oil preserve the protective phenotype of endothelial cells.