Just because it tastes good, doesn’t mean it’s bad for you.
A new study from researchers at OMRF and Penn State University found that people who eat a modest amount of pistachios decrease cellular inflammation, cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.
The researchers also found that a small daily serving of the nuts provides antioxidants normally found in fruits and vegetables. The findings appear in the newest issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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, headed by Petar Alaupovic, Ph.D., performed lipid measurements for this study.
“This is one of the first studies in which we didn’t just make the traditional measurements of how a nutrient affects triglycerides and different kinds of cholesterol, but we delved deeper into the apolipoproteins in that nutrient, in this case pistachios, that create the cholesterol and triglycerides,” Alaupovic said. “By exploring how the system works, we can learn how diet creates abnormalities in the lipoprotein system and how we can fix them.”
The researchers studied 28 men and women whose average bad cholesterol level was “borderline high.” They ate a diet rich in cheese, oil and butter before they switched to low-fat diets. After the switch, they incorporated pistachios into their meals and found that bad cholesterol levels dropped by 12 percent when two daily servings of pistachios were eaten. Good cholesterol levels did not change.
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.
“It appears, from this study, that nuts in general, but pistachios in this case, are somewhat effective at lowering bad cholesterol,” Alaupovic said. “So they’re not just pleasant to eat, but they’re also pretty good for your health.”
The work was supported by the California Pistachio Commission and the National Institutes of Health.
Alaupovic heads OMRF’s Lipid and Lipoprotein Laboratory. The lipoprotein classification system that he developed was adopted by the worldwide scientific community in 1972.
OMRF is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing effective treatments for human disease. Chartered in 1946, its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease.