Thursday, May 8, 2008

Eat This Tasty Snack and Live Longer?

Put down the potato chips. Throw out the candy bars. If you snack on pistachios--just 3 ounces (or two handfuls) a day--chances are you'll lower your LDL or "bad" cholesterol and in the process lower your risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death among both men and women.

Pistachios also provide important antioxidants found in leafy green vegetables and brightly colored fruit, according to a team of Penn State University researchers.

The study: Volunteers, whose food was provided to them during this controlled feeding study, began 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 diets. All three diets were variations on the Step I Diet, a cholesterol-lowering diet in general use. The diets included:

  • Step I Diet without pistachios which had 25 percent total fat and 8 percent saturated fat.
  • Step I Diet including 1.5 ounces of pistachios per day, which had 30 percent total fat and 8 percent saturated fat.
  • Step I Diet including 3 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.
The results: Standard blood tests determined the various cholesterol levels for each participant after each diet. Researchers found that 3 ounces of pistachios reduced the amounts of total cholesterol in the blood by 8.4 percent and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol, by 11.6 percent. The study also found that non-high density lipoproteins (non-HDL) decreased by 11.2 percent. Non-HDL levels are considered reliable predictors of cardiovascular disease risk.

The three-ounce pistachio diet also decreased the ratios of total cholesterol to HDL, LDL to HDL and non-HDL to HDL and apolipoprotein B, which are all measures of cardiovascular disease risk.

"We were pleased to see a difference between the two doses of pistachios for the lipoprotein ratios because it would appear that pistachios are causing the effect and that they act in a dose dependent way," said study leader Sarah K. Gebauer.

The study findings were presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in Washington, D.C.

--From the Editors at Netscape




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