Loma Linda, California A new research study from Loma Linda University (LLU) shows that adding just a handful of pecans to your diet each day may inhibit unwanted oxidation of blood lipids, thus helping reduce the risk of heart disease. Researchers suggest that this positive effect was in part due to the pecan's significant content of vitamin E.
"Plant foods, including pecans, are rich sources of phytochemicals that can have a unique effect on the body," says LLU researcher Ella Haddad, DrPH, associate professor, department of nutrition, School of Public Health.
Pecans contain different forms of vitamin E known as tocopherols which protects fats from oxidation. Pecans are especially rich in one form of vitamin E gamma tocopherol.
"We found that eating pecans increased levels of gamma tocopherol concentrations in the blood and subsequently reduced a marker of lipid oxidation," adds Dr. Haddad.
Oxidation of fats in the blood a process akin to rusting is detrimental to health. When the "bad" cholesterol becomes oxidized, it is more likely to build up and result in arteriosclerosis.
These latest research findings on pecan's healthfulness were published in the latest issue of Nutrition Research, just released this week. They are from the second phase of a research project designed to evaluate the health benefits of pecans, according to Dr. Haddad. She analyzed blood samples from study participants (a total of 23 men and women between the ages of 25 and 55) who ate two diets: one that contained pecans and one that did not. Participants were randomly placed on either the American Heart Association's Step I diet or a pecan-enriched version of the Step I diet. (The pecan-enriched diet was similar to the Step I diet but replaced 20 percent of calories with pecans). After four weeks on one diet, they then switched to the other diet.