Pecans may help consumers lose weight, according to new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the Harvard School of Public Health. The research, published in the October 5 issue of the International Journal of Obesity, found that people following a moderate-fat weight loss diet that contained unsaturated fats (including pecans and other varieties of nuts) were able to keep weight off for a longer period of time than people following a traditionally recommended low-fat diet.

“In our study, three times as many people trying to lose weight were able to stick to a Mediterranean-style diet versus the low-fat diet,” said study lead-author Kathy McManus, MS, RD, director of nutrition at BWH. “Motivation and adherence are very hard to sustain in any weight loss programs, but the results from this study suggest that the tastier the food, the greater overall success of the diet plan – even if it does include moderate amounts of fat.”

According to the researchers, a moderate-fat diet based on the diets of southern Europe and the Mediterranean allows for a greater variety of foods that are considered very appetizing compared with a strict, bland, low-fat diet. The main dietary fats in a typical Mediterranean diet are unsaturated such as the type of fat found in pecans, other nuts and olive and canola oils.

In the study of 101 overweight men and women, half were instructed to eat a low-fat diet (20% calories from fat) and half to eat a moderate-fat diet (35% calories from fat, mostly monounsaturated from nuts, peanut butter, olive and canola oils). All participants were given guidelines to eat a diet of approximately 1,200-1,500 calories that was low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Only one in five study participants could stick to the low-fat diet while more than half stuck to the moderate fat diet. Both groups lost an average of 11 pounds in the first year. The moderate fat group kept a significant amount of weight off for 18 months, whereas the low-fat group did not.