Other Research Confirms A High-Fiber Diet, Including Nuts, Helps Lower Cholesterol

Pecans contribute a significant amount of gamma tocopherol (a unique form of vitamin E) to the diet, say researchers at Loma Linda University. According to Loma Linda researcher Dr. Ella Haddad, gamma tocopherol is an important antioxidant nutrient and notes that studies have shown benefits for intestinal health and a protective effect for prostate cancer. Dr. Haddad presented research findings at the recent Experimental Biology 2001 Meeting (sponsored by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) on April 2, 2001.

The findings that pecans raise blood levels of gamma tocopherol were based on a tightly controlled metabolic feeding study in which researchers fed approximately 23 participants a diet rich in pecans (20 percent of energy was in the form of pecans). Subjects were also fed a diet free of nuts as a reference. Participants consumed each diet for a four-week period and at the end of the four weeks, after consuming the pecan rich diet, the researchers found increased levels of gamma tocopherol in the blood.

And there is even more good news for pecans. A new study published in the April issue of the journal Metabolism also supports the use of nuts, such as pecans, as part of a healthy diet. Researchers found that a diet rich in nuts, vegetables and fruits may reduce cholesterol levels as much as medication. Participants in the study consumed a diet containing 100 grams of fiber (a diet high in nuts, vegetables and fruits), a diet containing 40 grams of fiber (mainly consisting of cereals and legumes), and a diet containing 25 grams of fiber (a low-fat diet) for two weeks each. After only one week, participants consuming the high fiber diet (100 grams of fiber) reduced their total cholesterol level by 20 percent and their LDL cholesterol (also known as bad cholesterol) by 30 percent – a reduction similar to that seen with drug-therapy. Although the other diets also led to modest reductions in cholesterol levels, the reductions were not as significant as the high-fiber diet, possibly due to the nuts, noted lead researcher Dr. David A. Jenkins of the University of Toronto in Canada.

“Both studies contain positive news for pecans lovers, but the Loma Linda researchers’ findings regarding the gamma tocopherol form of vitamin E in pecans is especially exciting,” noted Beth Hubrich, MS, RD a dietitian with the National Pecan Shellers Association. She added, “The gamma tocopherol form is not as well studied as the alpha tocopherol form of vitamin E, but it too, plays an important role in keeping the body healthy. Several studies have confirmed that pecans and nuts can be a healthful contribution to the diet and consumers should feel good about incorporating pecans into their daily routine.” Hubrich concluded, “These two new research studies are a great addition to the growing list of scientific research and endorsements from leading health authorities that show the important role pecans can play in a heart-healthy diet.”