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A diet rich in walnuts and walnut oil may prepare the body to deal better with stress, according to a team of Penn State researchers who looked at how these foods, which contain polyunsaturated fats, influence blood pressure at rest and under stress.

Previous studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids — like the alpha linolenic acid found in walnuts and flax seeds can reduce low density lipoproteins (LDL) bad cholesterol. These foods may also reduce c-reactive protein and other markers of inflammation.

“People who show an exaggerated biological response to stress are at higher risk of heart disease,” said Sheila G. West, associate professor of biobehavioral health.

“We wanted to find out if omega 3-fatty acids from plant sources would blunt cardiovascular responses to stress.”The researchers studied 22 healthy adults with elevated LDL cholesterol.

All meals and snacks were provided during three diet periods of six weeks each.

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