Walnuts may protect the body’s arteries from the harm associated with eating a meal high in saturated fat, according to research.

The nut, rich in polyunsaturated fats, was found to limit the inflammatory response leading to potential clogging of arteries after a meal high in saturated fat, according to research due to be published in the October edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Reaserchers found that adding olive oil, known for its monounsaturated fats, did not appear to provide the same type of vascular benefits.

“Many people forget that walnuts are an important part of the Mediterranean diet, providing numerous health benefits,” said Dr Emilio Ros, director of the Lipid Clinic at Hospital Clinico in Barcelona, Spain. In fact, “walnuts, unlike olive oil and other nuts, contain significant amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential plant-based omega-3. They also provide antioxidants and L-arginine, components identified in past studies as potential nutrients that improve artery function.”

The Walnut Marketing Board, which released the findings, stressed that the study should not give consumers the green light to consume a diet high in saturated fat.