There is limited evidence that walnuts can reduce the risk of heart disease - but there is enough information for food companies to say so on their packages, U.S. regulators said this month.
The decision marks the first time the Food and Drug Administration has given final approval for food companies to list supported, but not definitive, evidence on the health claims of their products.
But consumer groups say such unsubstantiated claims are unnecessary and can confuse the public, which they complain is already bombarded by nutritional information. They argue against permitting the claim at all if there is only very limited, preliminary evidence.
When it comes to walnuts, the U.S. FDA will permit companies to state on packages of chopped and whole walnuts that "supportive but not conclusive research" shows eating 1.5 ounces (42 grams) of the nut each day could help fight heart disease. The claim will also say walnuts must be part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not result in eating too many calories.
Previously, the FDA banned food producers from making health claims about products unless the agency decided they were conclusive.
Other pending applications in the U.S. include claims involving omega-3 fatty acids, green tea and calcium.
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