A handful of pistachios may lower cholesterol and provide the antioxidants usually found in leafy green vegetables and brightly colored fruit, according to a team of researchers.
"Pistachio amounts of 1.5 ounces and 3 ounces one to two handfuls reduced risk for cardiovascular disease by significantly reducing LDL cholesterol levels and the higher dose significantly reduced lipoprotein ratios," says Sarah K. Gebauer, graduate student in integrative biosciences, Penn State, to attendees at the Experimental Biology meeting today (April 30) in Washington, D.C.
The researchers conducted a randomized, crossover design, controlled feeding experiment to test the effects of pistachios added to a heart healthy moderate-fat diet on cardiovascular disease risk factors. Controlled feeding experiments provide all the food eaten by study subjects for the duration of the study segment.
Participants began the study by eating an Average American Diet consisting of 35 percent total fat and 11 percent saturated fat for two weeks. They then tested three diets for four weeks each with a two-week break between each diet.
All three diets were variations on the Step I Diet, a cholesterol-lowering diet in general use. The diets included a Step I Diet without pistachios which had 25 percent total fat and 8 percent saturated fat; a Step I Diet including 1.5 ounces of pistachios per day which had 30 percent total fat and 8 percent saturated fat, and a Step I Diet including three ounces of pistachios per day which had 34 percent total fat and 8 percent saturated fat. The researchers added pistachios into the diets by including about half the amount of pistachios as a snack and by incorporating the rest into such foods as pistachio muffins, granola and pistachio pesto.
"We had really good compliance and participants were generally pleased with the diets," says Gebauer.