The researchers split 23 men and women between the ages of 25 and 55 into two groups. One group was placed on the American Heart Association's "Step I" diet while the other group was placed on a pecan-enriched version developed by the scientists, in which pecans made up 20 percent of the diet's calories. After four weeks, both groups traded diets.
Blood analysis of the participants found that the pecan-enriched diets reduced unwanted lipid oxidation in the blood by 7.4 percent compared to the Step I diet, which could potentially lower risk of heart disease. The study results, published in the August issue of Nutrition Research, theorized this may be due to the pecans' high vitamin E (gamma tocopherol) content, which is thought to protect fats from oxidation, since oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol is linked to atherosclerosis, arterial blockage, heart attacks and strokes.
"We concluded that even though the pecan diet was high in unsaturated fats, which one may think would increase blood oxidation, that did not happen," said lead author Dr. Ella Haddad, researcher at the Seventh-day Adventist institution's School of Public Health. "We found the opposite result: the pecan diet showed reduced oxidation of blood lipids."
"These data provide some evidence for potential protective effects of pecan consumption in healthy individuals," concluded Haddad.
"These results are not surprising," said Mike Adams, author of "The Seven Laws of Nutrition." "Natural health proponents have known for a long time that nuts and seeds contain powerful medicine for protecting the heart and nervous system. Now the science is finally starting to catch up and prove what we've known for decades: Nature already provides safe, effective medicine that's hidden in plants."
The importance of this study is illustrated by the fact that health officials from the U.K and the United States say heart and circulatory disease is the number one killer in both countries.