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Pistachios May Improve Heart Health

Including more pistachios in your diet may help improve heart health according to a study to be published in the June 2010 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University recruited 10 males and 18 females between 35 and 61 years of age for the study. All of the participants were healthy and non-smoking with slightly elevated levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

The participants consumed a typical western diet for the first two weeks of the study as a baseline diet. They were then randomly split into three groups for four weeks.

All three groups were given a lower-fat control diet. The first group consumed the control diet without pistachios, the second group added one serving of pistachios daily (3 ounces daily) and the final group added two servings of pistachios daily (6 ounces daily).

At the end of the 4 weeks the researchers observed among the participants with the pistachio diets. They also saw increases in blood levels of beneficial antioxidants.

Previous studies have found a similar association and researchers say the mechanism behind these results is likely associated with lower levels of something called Stearoyl CoA Desaturase (SCD). SCD is an enzyme that is involved in the body’s synthesis of fatty acids. Increased levels of this enzyme have been associated with increased body fat, diabetes risk and high cholesterol.

Pistachios also have high levels of protein, fiber and antioxidants and they have been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration (age related vision loss). To maximize the benefits of pistachios and nuts in general, it is important to avoid salted, oil-roasted nuts.

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