FRESNO, Calif., May 13, 2013 - Based on the results of four recent medical studies, health-wise consumers may want to include a handful of pistachios in their daily diet. Eating nuts such as pistachios has been associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, lower heart disease risk factors, lower body weight, and better outcomes during pregnancy.
First, a review of eight relevant studies has been published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine on the effect of pistachios on blood lipid profiles. With a single exception, all of the studies reported a decrease in the mean LDL (commonly regarded as bad) cholesterol in a range from 7.6 to 9.7% of the baseline. Drawing from PUBMED and Loma Linda University database searches, researchers from East Carolina University and the University of Tennessee found the majority of studies reported a statistically significant improvement in HDL and LDL cholesterol ratios. They concluded that adding pistachios to a diet can benefit individuals with normal and high LDL cholesterol. This result is consistent with other studies associating nut consumption with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, as noted in the following examples.
A PREDIMED study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February focused on the cardiovascular benefits of a Mediterranean diet that’s rich in nuts and extra-virgin olive oil. Researchers looked at individuals at high risk for heart disease and found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts resulted in a substantial reduction of major cardiovascular events. A total of 7,447 persons aged 55 to 80 participated for at least four years. They did not have cardiovascular disease when the study began, but were at risk for developing it because they had diabetes or at least three major risk factors, including smoking, high blood pressure, an elevated LDL cholesterol level, obesity or overweight, or a family history of premature heart disease. In the trial the Mediterranean diet groups resulted in a relative risk reduction of approximately 30%, including a significant reduction in the risk of stroke.
In the third paper, as published in PLOS ONE, the PREDIMED study researchers looked at the same persons who were at high risk for heart disease at the start of the study and compared those who ate nuts three times per week versus those who ate them less than once a week. Subjects who ate nuts three times per week or more had a significantly lower prevalence of obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. The nuts included pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts and cashews.
As background, PREDIMED is an acronym for a long-term, multi-center nutritional intervention study (PREvención con Dieta MEDiterránea) that was designed to examine the effects of the Mediterranean diet in the prevention of cardiac diseases. Launched in 2003 with a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Health, it is recognized for the size of its sample (more than 7400 subjects), the length of time (on average of four years) and its scientific rigor (randomized controlled study). Additional funding was received from the Centre Català de la Nutrició de l’Institut d’Estudis Catalans.
“Nuts, including pistachios, are rich in nutrients and filled with antioxidants, vitamins, protein and fiber that have been found to be heart healthy and not cause weight gain,” said Constance Geiger, Ph.D., R.D., Nutrition Consultant, American Pistachio Growers. She continues, “Studies show that substituting pistachios for other snacks or proteins improves the nutrient quality of the diet and is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.”
Finally, a fourth study appeared in the February issue of Diabetes Care. Led by Wei Bao, M.D., Ph.D., a research team examined the association between protein intake and gestational diabetes. A vegetable protein diet, specifically with nuts, in place of an animal protein diet, in particular red meat, was associated with a lower risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. The study extended over a 10-year period and included more than 21,000 healthy pregnancies among the 15,294 participants of the well-known and ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II cohort study. This study was funded by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health. The Nurses’ Health Study was funded by research grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Pistachios are a cholesterol-free snack that contains just 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 13 grams of fat per serving, the majority of which comes from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. A one-ounce serving of pistachios equals 49 nuts, which is more per serving than any other snack nut. Pistachios contain as much potassium per serving (300 mg, 8%) as an orange (250 mg, 7%), making them a nutritious snack choice or ingredient to incorporate into daily diets.
About American Pistachio Growers
American Pistachio Growers is an agricultural trade association representing members who are pistachio growers, processors and industry partners in California, Arizona and New Mexico. These states represent 100% of the domestic commercial pistachio production. APG pistachios are the “Official Snack” of USA Water Polo, professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones and the Miss California Organization. APG and its ambassadors share the goal of increasing national awareness about the nutritional benefits of pistachios. For more information, visit www.AmericanPistachios.org.
London H, et al. The impact of pistachio consumption on blood lipid profile: a literature review. American Journal
of Lifestyle Medicine. Published online March 12, 2013. DOI: 10.1177/1559827613479910
Estruch R, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. N Engl J Med. Published on February 25, 2013, at NEJM.org DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1200303
Ibarrola-Jurado-N, et al. Cross-sectional assessment of nut consumption and obesity, metabolic syndrome and other cardiometabolic risk factors: The PREDIMED Study. PLOS ONE | www.plosone.org 1 February 2013 | Volume 8 | Issue 2 | e57367
Bao W, et al. Prepregnancy dietary protein intake, major dietary protein sources and the
risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care. 2013. Publish Ahead of Print, published online February 12, 2013. DOI: 10.2337/dc12-2018