Researchers at the University of Georgia have identified a tasty way to treat a person’s unbalanced cholesterol levels: pecans.
Yes, it turns out this tree nut doesn’t just contribute to delicious pies and tarts—in fact, as dietary interventions go, this one was extremely successful in lowering the cholesterol of participants who were at risk for cardiovascular disease.
The participants ate pecans during an eight-week intervention conducted by researchers in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences and experienced significant improvements in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol.
“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,” says Jaime Cooper, a professor in the FACS department of nutritional sciences and one of the study’s authors.
The participants demonstrated an average drop of five percent in total cholesterol and between six percent and nine percent in LDL.
“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,” Cooper continues. “Some research shows that even a one percent reduction in LDL is associated with a mall reduction of coronary artery disease risk, so these reductions are definitely clinically meaningful.”
It also didn’t seem to matter whether the participants in the study added pecans on top of the diet that they already had or substituted other foods in the diet for them. In both cases, the researchers still saw improvements and similar responses in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Researchers are still working to understand what about the pecan allows it to drive such improvements but believe that its known bioactive properties have something to do with it. Pecans are also high in healthy fatty acids and fiber, both of which have been connected to lowering cholesterol.
Source Study: The Journal of Nutrition—Pecan-enriched diets alter cholesterol profiles and triglycerides in adults at risk for cardiovascular disease in a randomized, controlled trial