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Eating Pistachios Helps Reduce Cardiovascular Risk

- New Penn State University Research Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Finds Pistachios Improve Risk Factors for Heart Disease


LOS ANGELES, Sept. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Looking for a heart-healthy snack nut? Pistachios may be just what the cardiologist ordered. According to a new study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that pistachios improve several markers for cardiovascular disease, including lowering harmful blood lipids and impacting enzymes involved in removing unhealthy cholesterol in the bloodstream. The full study is available at, an online resource for pistachio nutrition and health information.


"Our results clearly show two things: A small amount of pistachios that can be easily incorporated into most diets significantly improves biomarkers known to increase risk for heart disease, and they do so in a dose-dependent manner," says the lead researcher of the study, Sarah Gebauer, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate at the USDA Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, formerly of Pennsylvania State University. The study further affirms the FDA's first-ever qualified heart health claim, issued in July 2003, which states: "Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."

High total blood cholesterol, high LDL-cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol levels are major risk factors for coronary heart disease, the number one cause of death in the United States. One in every two American adults has high blood cholesterol levels, and one American dies from heart disease every 37 seconds. The annual U.S. health-care costs to treat coronary heart disease are $450 billion, according to the American Heart Association. The good news: A healthy diet and lifestyle can help prevent the majority of these cases.

According to the American Heart Association, replacing saturated and trans fats with healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats is a major dietary recommendation to improve heart health. Now, researchers at Pennsylvania State University conducted a randomized, crossover, controlled feeding study to test the effects of pistachios added to a heart healthy, moderate-fat diet on cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Twenty-eight men and women with moderately elevated LDL cholesterol began the study by following a diet designed to mimic the current average American intake, consisting of 35 percent total fat and 11 percent saturated fat for two weeks. The researchers randomly assigned subjects to follow three test diets for four weeks each, with a two-week break between each diet.

All three diets were variations on the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Step 1 Diet, a cholesterol-lowering diet advocated by the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The three diets included a Step 1 Diet control group without pistachios; a Step 1 Diet with one dose of pistachios a day at 10 percent of total calories (equal to 1.1 to 2.2 ounces of pistachios a day depending on calorie level); and a Step 1 Diet with two doses of pistachios a day at 20 percent of total calories (equal to 2.2 to 4.4 ounces of pistachios a day depending on calorie level).

Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and non-HDL cholesterol levels were significantly lower with the two pistachio diets compared to the control group. The one dose pistachio diet lowered harmful LDL cholesterol by nine percent and the two dose pistachio diet lowered LDL by 12 percent. In addition, the researchers documented lower amounts of saturated fats in the blood and higher amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in both pistachio diets. Compared to the control diet, HDL-cholesterol levels were higher in women following the two dose pistachio diet. HDL-cholesterol levels were not significantly different across the diets in men.

As part of the study protocol, participants were asked to eat pistachios both as a snack and as an ingredient in delicious and nutritious recipes. The "Pistachio Heart Health recipes" -- which include Pistachio Crunch Muffins, Pistachio Chicken Salad (below), Pistachio Granola, Pistachio Pesto and others -- are available at

About California-Grown Pistachios and PistachioHealth.Com

A one-ounce serving of California pistachios, with 160 calories, provides more than 30 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Pistachios are an excellent source of vitamin B6, copper and manganese; and a good source of protein, fiber, thiamin and phosphorus. Pistachios are one of the tree nuts included in the Food and Drug Administration's qualified health claim for the prevention of heart disease.

For more information, visit, the leading online source of information on the health and nutrition benefits of California pistachios, research updates and educational materials, to both consumers and health professionals. The site, provided by Paramount Farms, California's largest pistachio grower and processor, serves as an industry-wide resource.


Penn State Pistachio Heart Health Recipe

Pistachio Chicken Salad

3 cups boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped

1 cup red seedless grapes, sliced

2 teaspoons scallions, minced

2 tablespoons fat free mayonnaise

2 tablespoons fat free sour cream

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup unsalted pistachios, chopped Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly to evenly distribute. Serve atop your favorite whole grain bread or atop a bed of mixed greens. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: (1/2 cup = 94 g), 179 kcal, 10 g protein, 13 g CHO, 10.8 g total fat (1.5 g Sat, 5 g Mono, 3 g Poly), 10mg cholesterol

SOURCE Paramount Farms; PistachioHealth.Com
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