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Pecans promote heart health, lower cholesterol levels

Thursday, March 24, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: pecans, heart health, health news

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(NaturalNews) The health benefits offered by pecans are greater than previously believed, according to a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition. Researchers from Loma Linda University (LLU) in California have identified a host of beneficial antioxidants found in pecans that benefit the heart, lower bad cholesterol levels, and protect against disease-causing inflammation.

Dr. Ella Haddad and her team from LLU evaluated 16 men and women between the ages of 23 and 44 who were assigned to eat one of three diets. The first diet contained about three ounces of whole pecans, the second contained three ounces of blended pecans with water, and the third contained a control item. The team took blood samples of participants at various intervals up to 24 hours after consumption of the meals, and they observed a clear increase in oxygen radical absorbance capabilities (ORAC) as well as lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels among those who ate the pecan-enriched meals.

"Our tests show that eating pecans increases the amount of healthy antioxidants in the body," said Haddad, who is also an associate professor at LLU's School of Public Health. "This protective effect is important in helping to prevent development of various diseases such as cancer and heart disease."

Rich in tocopherols, a natural form of vitamin E, pecans contain specifically high levels of gamma-tocopherols, a form of vitamin E closely associated with inflammation reduction. In the study, blood levels of this important form of vitamin E doubled in just eight hours after pecan consumption. And after just three hours, gamma-tocopherol levels notably decreased LDL cholesterol levels in the body by 33 percent.

"This study is another piece of evidence that pecans are a healthy food," added Haddad. "Previous research has shown that pecans contain antioxidant factors. Our study shows these antioxidants are indeed absorbed in the body and provide a protective effect against diseases."

A previous LLU study published in The Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that simply adding pecans to one's diet can help lower cholesterol levels by 116.5 percent more than the American Heart Association's (AHA) Step I diet can. Together, the two studies confirm the incredible health-promoting power of pecans.

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