British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Molecular Nutrition

In comparison with palm oil, dietary nut supplementation delays the progression of atherosclerotic lesions in female apoE-deficient mice

Joaquín C. Surraa1a2, Cristina Barranqueroa2a3, María P. Torcala3, Israel Ormana4, Jose C. Segoviaa4, Natalia Guilléna2a3, María A. Navarroa2a3, Carmen Arnala2a5 and Jesús Osadaa2a3 c1

a1 Departamento de Producción Animal, Escuela Politécnica Superior de Huesca, Huesca, Spain

a2 CIBER de Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain

a3 Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular y Celular, Facultad de Veterinaria, Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria de Aragón, Universidad de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain

a4 Differentiation and Cytometry Unit, Hematopoiesis and Gene Therapy Division, Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT) and Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Raras (CIBERER), Madrid, Spain

a5 Departamento de Patología Animal, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain


Epidemiological studies have demonstrated the benefits of nut consumption on cardiovascular risk factors and CHD, attributed to their fatty acid profile, rich in unsaturated fatty acids, and also to other nutrients. The effect of nuts on atherosclerotic lesions was studied in female and male apoE-knockout mice fed a diet supplemented with 3 % (w/w) mixed nuts (mix: almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts in a proportion of 0·25:0·25:0·50, respectively), and compared with mice receiving an isoenergetic diet of similar fat content provided as palm oil. After 12 weeks, plasma lipid parameters and aortic lesions were measured. Males receiving nuts had lower plasma cholesterol than the palm oil group, and both sex groups had lower plasma non-HDL-cholesterol and lower content of reactive oxygen species in LDL than mice receiving the palm oil diet, the latter decrease being more pronounced in females than in males. Females consuming the nut diet showed a smaller aortic lesion area than those consuming palm oil, whereas no differences were observed in males. In females, hepatic paraoxonase 2 (Pon2) mRNA increased, and no change was observed in prenylcysteine oxidase 1 (Pcyox1) expression after the consumption of the nut-containing diet. In addition, aortic atherosclerotic lesions correlated directly with total plasma cholesterol and inversely with hepatic Pon2 expression. The results suggest that the beneficial effect of nut intake in female apoE-deficient mice may be attributed to reduced non-HDL-cholesterol levels and enhanced PON2 antioxidant activity.

(Received November 01 2011)

(Revised February 08 2012)

(Accepted February 08 2012)

(Online publication January 28 2012)

Key Words:

  • Nuts;
  • ApoE-deficient mice;
  • Atherosclerosis;
  • Lipoproteins


c1 Corresponding author: Dr J. Osada, fax +34 976 761 612, email


  Abbreviations: ITGA4, integrin α4; ITGAM, integrin αM; Pcyox1, prenylcysteine oxidase 1; Pon2, Paraoxonase 2,