Eating a pecan-enriched diet has been found to lower total cholesterol by 5% in those at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Debating which pies to make this Thanksgiving? Consider making pecan pie for an additional side of health benefits. Researchers from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia (GA, USA) looked at how total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides were affected by eating pecan nuts.
Participants between the ages of 30 and 75 and at risk of cardiovascular disease were placed into three groups. The first group ate 68 grams of pecans a day in addition to their normal diet, the amount in around three slices of pecan pie! The second group ate the same amount of pecans but as a substitute for other foods in their diet, and the final group did not eat any pecans over the course of this 8-week study.
At the end of this intervention period, individuals ate a high-fat meal so any changes in blood lipids, glucose or sugar could be measured between a fasted and post-meal state. “Whether people added them [pecans] or substituted other foods in the diet for them, we still saw improvements and pretty similar responses in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in particular,” commented Jamie Cooper, one of the study’s authors. This result could be because pecans contain healthy fatty acids and fibers which have previously been linked to lowering cholesterol.
Eating diets with more fruits, vegetables, legumes, tea and coffee has been linked with a lower dementia incidence due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
“This dietary intervention, when put in the context of different intervention studies, was extremely successful,” said Cooper, “we had some people who actually went from having high cholesterol at the start of the study to no longer being in that category after the intervention.”
There was an average decrease of 5% in the total cholesterol of participants, and between 6-9% in LDL cholesterol after including pecans in diets. In comparison, previous studies looking at lowering cholesterol through exercise intervention only reported a 1% decrease of total cholesterol and 5% in LDL cholesterol.
“The addition of pecans to the diet not only produced a greater and more consistent reduction in total cholesterol and LDL compared to many other lifestyle interventions but may also be a more sustainable approach for long-term health,” explained Cooper. “Some research shows that even a 1% reduction in LDL is associated with a small reduction of coronary artery disease risk, so these reductions are definitely clinically meaningful.”
So, opt for the pecan pie this Thanksgiving and start lowering your cholesterol! Although, make sure to also increase pecan intake in ways other than pie.