American Pistachio Growers fund health and nutrition research that demonstrates how eating pistachios can help individuals maintain good health and reduce the risk of nutrition-related diseases. These research studies suggest that pistachios, as well as other mixed nuts, have numerous health benefits, including lowering the risk of heart disease, creating a lower than expected blood sugar level, supporting weight management and being a source of health-boosting antioxidants.
Research published in The Journal of Nutrition (June 2010) suggests that eating pistachios raises levels of serum antioxidants, such as lutein and gamma tocopherol, which may contribute to lower levels of oxidized-LDL cholesterol.
Kay CD, Gebauer SK, West SG, Kris-Etherton PM. Pistachios increase serum antioxidants and lower serum oxidized-LDL in hypercholesterolemic adults. J Nutr. 2010;140:1093-1098.
Pistachios are one of the nuts included in the qualified health claim approved by the FDA in July 2003, which stated: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may lower the risk of heart disease."
Pistachios likely reduce overall heart disease risk beyond just a decrease in total and LDL cholesterol alone. Numerous studies have looked at the effects of eating pistachios on many risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These studies suggest eating pistachios daily (1 to 3 ounces or as 10-20% of calories) may reduce the risk of heart disease in four ways:
1) Lowering total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and non-HDL cholesterol
2) Increasing antioxidants in the blood and decreasing oxidized-LDL
3) Providing beneficial anti-inflammatory properties
4) Reducing acute stress by lowering blood pressure
Kay CD, Gebauer SK, West SG, Kris-Etherton PM. Pistachios increase serum antioxidants and lower serum oxidized-LDL in hypercholesterolemic adults.
J Nutr. 2010;140:1093-98.
Zhang J, Kris-Etherton PM, Thompson JT, Vanden Heuvel JP. Effect of pistachio oil on gene expression of IFN-induced protein with tetratricopeptide repeats 2: A biomarker of inflammatory response. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
Sari I, Baltaci Y, Bagci C, Davutoglu V, Erel O, Celik H, Ozer O, Aksoy N, Aksoy M. Effect of pistachio diet on lipid parameters, endothelial function, inflammation, and oxidative status: A prospective study. Nutrition.
Gebauer SK, West SG, Kay CD, Alaupovic P, Bagshaw D, Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of pistachios on cardiovascular disease risk factors and potential mechanisms of action: A dose-response study.
Amer J Clin Nutr. 2008;88:651–9.
West SG, Kay CD, Gebauer SK, Savastano DM, Diefenbach CM, Kris-Etherton PM. Pistachios reduce blood pressure and vascular responses to acute stress in healthy adults.
FASEB J. 2007;21: 682.3.
Sheridan MJ, Cooper JN, Erario M, Cheifetz CE. Pistachio nut consumption and serum lipid levels.
J Am Coll Nutr. 2007;26(2):141-8.
Kocyigit A, Koylu AA, Keles H. Effects of pistachio nuts consumption on plasma lipid profile and oxidative status in healthy volunteers. Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.
Edwards K, Kwaw I, Matud J, Kurtz I. Effect of pistachio nuts on serum lipid levels in patients with moderate hypercholesterolemia.
J Amer Coll Nutr. 1999;18:229-32.
A recently published pooled analysis of 25 studies suggests eating nuts, such as pistachios, has a total and LDL (bad) cholesterol-lowering effect, further confirming the evidence that regular nut consumption can lower the risk of coronary heart disease.
Sabate J, Oda K, Ros E. Nut consumption and blood lipids: A pooled analysis of 25 intervention trials. Arch Intern Med.
Results from recent studies suggest that U.S. adults who consume nuts, such as pistachios, versus those who do not may have lower body weight measures and obesity, a lower prevalence of health risks and better diets. Furthermore, pistachios were used as a portion-controlled snack in a recent weight loss study. The people in the study who ate pistachios improved their body mass index and triglycerides in a comparison to those who ate a refined carbohydrate snack. Both groups lost weight during the 12 week study.
Fulgoni III VL, O'Neil CE, Keast DR, Nicklas TA. Improved diet quality, nutrient intake, and health associated with out-of-hand tree nut consumption in U.S. Adults:
NHANES 1999-2004.FASEB J. 2010;24:324.4
Li Z, Song R, Nguyen C, Zerlin A, et al. Pistachio nuts reduce triglycerides and body weight by comparison to refined carbohydrate snack in obese subjects on a 12-week weight loss program.
J Am Coll Nutr. 2010;29(3):198-203.
Bes-Rastrollo M, Wedick NM, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Li TY, Sampson L, Hu FB. Prospective study of nut consumption, long-term weight change, and obesity risk in women.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1–7.
Since the 2003 FDA-approved health claim, there has also been an increase in the number of studies showing not only the positive role of nuts in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, but also the potential benefits of nut consumption on blood glucose, diabetes and a healthy body weight. Two short-term studies examined the effects of pistachio consumption on postprandial glucose.
- Pistachios when fed alone at 1, 2 or 3 ounces have little effect on blood sugar levels. Pistachios when fed with a carbohydrate-rich meal lowered the blood glucose response in a dose-dependent manner, e.g., the higher the dose of pistachios, the more the blood sugar level was lowered.
- Pistachios added to different common carbohydrate foods, such as rice and pasta, significantly reduced the relative blood sugar response of the carbohydrate meals with which they were eaten.
Kendall CWC, Josse AR, Esfahani, Jenkins DJA. The impact of pistachio intake alone or in combination with highcarbohydrate foods on post-prandial glycemia. Eur J of Clin Nutr (2011), Mar 2. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 21364607.
Recently, two additional mixed nut studies have been conducted on individuals with diabetes.
- The results from the randomized clinical trial showed a significant reduction in HbA1c, a long-term marker of blood sugar control, and a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol.
- The results of the epidemiologic cohort study suggested that frequent nut and peanut butter consumption (five times per week) is associated with a significantly lower cardiovascular disease risk in women with type 2 diabetes.
Jenkins DJA, Kendall CWC, Banach MS, et al. Nuts as a replacement for carbohydrates in the diabetic diet. Diabetes Care.
Li TY, Brennan AM, Wedick NM, Mantzoros C, Rifai N, Hu FB. Regular consumption of nuts is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in women with type 2 diabetes. J Nutr. 2009; 139:1333-8.