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Could Pistachios Help Diabetics With Their Heart Health?

People with type-2 diabetes are at higher risk for heart problems than people who don’t have diabetes. A recent study suggests diabetics may be able to lower their blood pressure during stressful situations and improve heart health by eating two servings of pistachios daily.

Participants in the study included 30 adults between the ages of 40 and 70 who had well-managed type-2 diabetes. For the first two weeks of the study, the participants consumed the typical American diet containing 36% fat and 12% saturated fats.

They were then randomly assigned to one of two test diets. The first was a standard heart-healthy diet consisting of 27% fat and 7% saturated fats. The second was a moderate-fat diet with 33% fat and 7% saturated fats and two servings of pistachios per day of approximately 3 ounces.

Following a two week washout period, participants switched test diets.

At the conclusion of the study, the researchers noted that, while laboratory blood pressure was unchanged, real-world measures of blood pressure were significantly lower after the pistachio diet, especially during sleep. They also noted that vascular constriction during stress (in this case, immersing the hand in icy water for two minutes and a difficult math test) was lower after the pistachio diet.

Improvements in heart rate variability were also recorded. Heart rate variability measures how well the nervous system controls heart function.

Researchers from Penn State University conducted the study. It was published in the June 2014 issue of the Journal of American Hypertension.

Pistachios have high levels of protein and antioxidants and have been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration (age related vision loss), strengthen the immune system and protect against heart attacks. To maximize the benefits of pistachios and nuts in general, it is important to avoid salted, oil-roasted nuts.

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