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Pistachios Offer Protective Benefits Against Heart Disease, Type II Diabetes and Obesity

April 22, 2009

Research Presented at Experimental Biology 2009 Reveals Cardiovascular and Glycemic Control Benefits of Pistachios

NEW ORLEANS, April 22 /PRNewswire/ — Pistachios are much more than a great-tasting snack. The little green nuts may do more for your heart, blood sugar and waistline than many other snack food choices, according to research presented this week at Experimental Biology 2009 in New Orleans. Researchers from UCLA and the University of Toronto presented, for the first time, their findings from human clinical trials showing major health benefits from eating pistachios.

Pistachios – The “Skinny” Nut

Several studies have previously shown that pistachios – and tree nuts in general – do not contribute to overweight or obesity, when consumed in moderation.(1) In fact, more recent studies suggest that nut consumption is linked to a lower body mass index – a marker for overweight and obesity, and pistachios are thought to provide a high satiety value that may help curb appetite, making adherence to a calorie-reduced diet easier. The UCLA researchers set out to determine if equal amounts of calories from either pistachios or pretzels would result in any metabolic or anthropometric differences, when given as part of a calorie-controlled, three-month weight loss diet.

The researchers randomly assigned overweight adults to follow a diet that cut calories by 500 per day from usual calorie intake. The new diet added in either an afternoon snack of 2 ounces of unsalted pretzels (220 calories), or 3 ounces of in-shell pistachios (240 calories). The subjects following the pistachio intervention lost a statistically significant amount of weight, enough to reduce BMI from 30.88 at the onset of the study to 28.84. This is equivalent to about a 10-12 pound weight loss for most adults of average height. At the mid-point (six weeks) of the study, pistachio eaters had significantly lower triglycerides (a form of fat present in the bloodstream that is linked to diet and lifestyle factors) compared to pretzel eaters. Subjects who ate pistachios had an average triglyceride level of 90 mg/dl versus 132 mg/dl for the pretzel eaters. Triglycerides of 150 mg/dl or higher are associated with an increased risk for heart disease, metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.

Pistachios are one of the lowest calorie, lowest fat nuts. In fact, pistachios have three calories per nut – about half the calories of most snack nuts. In addition, 30 pistachio kernels yield about 100 calories – compare that to just 14 for almonds, and 11 for cashews. Pistachios are also unique in that they are the only in-shell snack nut. In-shell pistachios take longer to eat, so the consumption time is slowed. Empty pistachio shells serve as an important visual cue, encouraging “mindfulness” as one eats, thereby curbing calorie consumption.

“Our results are promising because they show that pistachios can be part of a successful weight loss program, and they provide the added benefits of helping to control blood lipids, like triglycerides and LDL cholesterol,” said Dr. Heber, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.

Pistachios Blunt Blood Sugar

Researchers from the University of Toronto and St. Michel’s Hospital in Toronto presented results for their study evaluating the ability of pistachios to help control blood sugar levels and enhance satiety of meals and snacks. Fifteen subjects ate three nutritionally equivalent test meals on three separate occasions: 1) white bread alone; 2) white bread plus 2 oz pistachios; or 3) white bread with butter and cheese. The researchers measured blood sugar and gut hormone responses to each of the test meals over a three-hour period. Their results showed that, compared to the white bread alone, pistachios blunt the blood sugar response, delay gastric emptying and increase levels of the satiety hormone, ghrelin. The results show the power of pistachios in helping to control glycemic response and appetite.

The same researchers presented their findings from the largest human clinical trial to evaluate the effects of nut consumption on individuals with Type II diabetes. The three-month study included 117 subjects (mean age 62) who were randomly assigned to receive one of three diet interventions: 1) 2-1/2 ounces or 1/2 cup of mixed nuts (including pistachios); 2) 1-1/3 ounces or 1/4 cup of mixed nuts and half portion of muffin; or 3) full portion of muffin. Each snack accounted for 450 calories, and all the overall diets were matched for caloric intake.

While on each diet intervention, researchers measured the subjects’ HbA1c (a marker of blood sugar control over the previous three months) as well as blood lipid markers associated with heart heath. The findings revealed that the full dose nut group had significantly reduced LDL and total cholesterol levels compared to the full dose muffin group, as well as a significant reduction in HbA1c from baseline in the full dose nuts compared to the other two diets.

“Type II diabetes, heart disease and overweight are all related conditions, and a healthy diet – one that includes pistachios – may have a positive impact on these widespread public health conditions,” said registered dietitian Kelly Plowe, MS, RD., nutrition communications manager at Paramount Farms.

About PistachioHealth.com

PistachioHealth.com is the leading online source of information on the health and nutrition benefits of pistachios, including research updates and educational materials, to both consumers and health professionals. The site is provided by Paramount Farms, California’s largest pistachio grower and processor, as an industry-wide resource.

About Paramount Farms

Paramount Farms is the world’s largest vertically integrated supplier of pistachios and almonds. Paramount Farms’ 30,000 acres of pistachio orchards, located in California’sSan Joaquin Valley, are the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Paramount Farms’ pistachios can be found in the produce department of grocery stores nationwide sold to consumers under the Wonderful(R), Everybody’s Nuts(TM) and Sunkist(R) brand names. Paramount Farms pistachios are not a part of the recent Setton Farms recall. For more information, visit www.pistachiorecall.org.

References:

1. Sabate, J. (2003). Nut Consumption and Body Weight. Am J Clin Nutr, 78(3), 647S-650.

SOURCE Paramount Farms; PistachioHealth.com


Source: newswire



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