A newly published study in The Journal of Nutrition suggests that pecan consumption improves fasting and post-meal blood lipids and post-meal glucose levels in adults at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Research indicates that regular consumption of tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds or pistachios are cardio-protective. However, very few studies have examined the impact of pecan consumption on chronic disease risk in adults. To address this research gap, researchers Jamie Cooper, Liana Guarneiri, and Chad Paton (University of Georgia) conducted a study to examine the impact of daily pecan consumption on blood lipids and blood glucose markers in adults at-risk for cardiovascular disease.
Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: a no-nut control group or 1 of 2 pecan groups. Participants in the control group were instructed to avoid all forms of nuts. Participants in the pecan groups consumed 68 g of pecans per day for 8 weeks; however, dietary instructions for the 2 pecan groups differed. For one group, participants were instructed to consume pecans as part of their free-living diet with no additional diet instructions, referred to as the ADD group. Participants in the other pecan group (SUB group) received counseling at baseline on how to substitute pecans for regularly consumed foods to substitute the 475 kcal provided by the 68 grams of pecans. Fasting blood draws were taken at baseline and at week 8 post-intervention.
At baseline and at week 8, participants consumed a high-fat meal followed by periodic blood draws for 4 hours to determine changes in blood lipid and glucose levels. Pecan consumption lowered fasting total cholesterol by 4.7% and 4.9% and LDL cholesterol by 9.5% and 6.4% in the ADD and SUB groups, respectively. These findings are clinically meaningful because a 1.0% reduction in LDL cholesterol is associated with a 1.2 – 2.0% reduction in the risk of coronary artery disease. The similar reduction of blood lipids in the pecan groups is also a novel finding and indicates that dietary substitution instructions are not required when recommending daily pecan consumption to adults with elevated blood lipids. Post-meal triglycerides and glucose levels were also suppressed after 8 weeks of pecan consumption.
This study shows that a simple and cost-effective method to reduce risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease in susceptible populations is achievable. Future studies are needed to investigate the impact of pecan consumption for a longer duration at a lower dose in a variety of populations.
Guarneiri LL, Paton CM, Cooper JA. Pecan-enriched diets alter cholesterol profiles and triglycerides in adults at risk for cardiovascular disease in a randomized, controlled trial. J Nutr., Volume 151, Issue 10, October 2021, Pages 3091–3101, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxab248.
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