A study has shown that hamsters fed on a diet of ground walnuts had reduced levels of the protein endothelin which can cause cardiovascular disease as it inflames arteries and clogs blood vessels.
According to product trackers Mintel's Global New Product Database, (GNPD) , walnuts have been appearing globally as a functional snack food on the back of a growing body of research linking them to reduced rates of heart disease.
In May, Turkish company Demirciler Sanayi Sitesi launched a 'walnut sausage' on to the market.
The Beypa walnut sausage is made from walnuts coated in jelly and grape syrup and claims to be high in protein, vitamin B, phosphorus and potassium.
The company is hoping to target the health market, saying the product reduces the risk of chronic heart disease and cancer while acting as an energy-booster.
Recent research provides further evidence of the health-boosting properties of nuts and follows on from previous studies establishing walnuts as a means of lowering LDL 'bad' cholesterol and praising their antioxidant content.
100 laboratory hamsters were used in the study and fed a daily diet of the equivalent of three to eight adult handfuls of walnuts over six months. The rodents were subsequently found to have lower levels of endothelin in their arteries.
Further research is required before a similar effect is definitively measured in humans.
The study was undertaken by the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in collaboration with the University of California-Davis and the University of Padova in Italy and funded in part by the California Walnut Commission. Results were published in full in the Journal of Nutrition (vol 135).