Good news for nut lovers: A new study from researchers at Penn State University and OMRF shows that modest intake of pistachios lowers cholesterol levels.
The researchers also found that a small daily serving of the nuts provides antioxidants normally found in fruits and vegetables. The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology meeting this week in Washington, DC.
The researchers, led by Penn State’s Penny Kris-Etherton, found that daily intake of 1.5 to 3 ounces—one to two handfuls—of pistachios reduced risk for cardiovascular disease by significantly reducing levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol. The higher dose (3 ounces per day) significantly reduced ratios of potentially harmful lipoproteins to potentially beneficial lipoproteins.
OMRF’s lipid and lipoprotein laboratory performed lipid measurements for this study.
“Among other beneficial effects noted in this study, it showed for the first time that higher dosages of pistachio nuts had lowering effects on the protein component of harmful cholesterol-rich and triglyceride-rich lipoproteins,” said Dr. Petar Alaupovic, who heads OMRF’s lipid and lipoprotein laboratory. “These two lipoproteins are considered major risk factors for coronary artery disease.”
Study participants ate an average diet, followed by three, four-week sessions of dieting while adding pistachios. About half of their pistachio intake came in the form of snacks; the remainder was incorporated into other foods. Subsequent blood tests among the 3-ounce intake group revealed a reduction of 8.4 percent in total blood cholesterol and 11.6 percent in LDL.
The study also found that both intake groups had increased levels of the antioxidant lutein and reduced levels of LDL oxidation. Increased levels of LDL oxidation have been linked to the formation of plaque in arteries.
The work was supported by the California Pistachio Commission and the National Institutes of Health.
Alaupovic joined OMRF’s scientific staff in 1960. The lipoprotein classification system that he developed was adopted by the worldwide scientific community in 1972.
Chartered in 1946, OMRF (www.omrf.org) is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human disease. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease.