To study the health benefits of pistachios, researchers from Penn State University conducted a randomized, crossover design, controlled feeding experiment.
Study participants began by eating a typical American-style diet consisting of 35 percent total fat and 11 percent saturated fat for two weeks. Then, they tested three different diets for four weeks with about a two-week break between each diet.
All three of the subsequent diets were variations of the Step I Diet - a diet meant to lower cholesterol levels. The control group diet contained no pistachios and about 25 percent total fat and 8 percent saturated fat. The pistachio-rich diets included 10 and 20 percent of their calories supplied by the nuts.
The 10 percent pistachio diet included 1.5 ounces of pistachios per day, while the 20 percent pistachio diet contained 3 ounces of pistachios per day.
Researchers found that both pistachio diets increased blood levels of antioxidants, including beta-carotene, lutein and gamma-tocopherol more than the control diet. After eating both pistachio-rich diets, participants also had lower LDL levels in their blood.
The findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition come less than a month after a major study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that the heart health benefit of nuts, including pistachios, seems to be greatest for leaner people, those eating less healthy diets and people with higher levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol.
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