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Pecan-Enriched Diet Protects against CV Disease and Diabetes

By Labmedica International staff writers
Posted on 03 Apr 2018
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Image: Ripe pecan-nuts photographed on a tree in Hadera, Israel (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).
Image: Ripe pecan-nuts photographed on a tree in Hadera, Israel (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).
Results of a randomized, controlled feeding trial suggested that eating just 1.5 ounces (44.36 milliliters) of pecans every day could protect adults at risk for developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type II diabetes.

Evidence from observational and intervention studies has shown that a high intake of tree nuts was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), mortality from type II diabetes, and all-cause mortality. However, there is limited data available regarding the dietary effects of tree nuts on indicators of cardiometabolic risk other than hypercholesterolemia, and little is known about the demonstrable health benefits of pecans.

To fill this gap, investigators at Tufts University (Boston, MA, USA) conducted a randomized, controlled feeding trial to compare the effects of a pecan-rich diet with a control diet containing similar total fat and fiber content, but lacking nuts, on biomarkers related to CVD and type II diabetes risk in healthy middle-aged and older adults who were overweight or obese with excess belly fat.

Results published in the March 11, 2018, online edition of the journal Nutrients revealed that after four weeks on a pecan-rich diet, changes in serum insulin, insulin resistance, and pancreatic beta cell function were significantly greater than after the control diet. Pecan consumption also lowered the risk of cardiometabolic disease as indicated by a composite score reflecting changes in clinically relevant markers. Thus, compared to the control diet, the pecan intervention had a concurrent and clinically significant effect on several relevant markers of cardiometabolic risk.

"Pecans are naturally high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, so replacing a portion of the saturated fat in the diet with these healthier fats can explain some of the cardio-protective effects we observed," said first author Dr. Diane McKay, assistant professor of nutrition science at Tufts University. "But pecans also contain a number of bioactive plant compounds as well as vitamins and essential minerals that all likely contributed to this benefit. What is really interesting is that just one small change - eating a handful of pecans daily - may have a large impact on the health of these at-risk adults."

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