Nutrients in a nutshell

Nutrients in a nutshell

Nutrients in a nutshell

In a first-of-its-kind study in India, a randomised case-controlled study conducted by the International Diabetes Federation found that adding pistachios in the diet of people with metabolic syndrome (one-third of urban Asian Indian adults) may play a role in reducing body fat, cholesterol levels and markers of inflammation and oxidative stress — all risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  The study was presented recently at the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI).

Researchers of the study looked at the benefit of adding a daily dose of pistachios to an energy-controlled diet for individuals suffering from any form of metabolic syndrome. After six months, they found significant improvements in waist circumference, subcutaneous fat, adiponectin (a hormone inversely related to per cent body fat), level of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, C-reactive protein (CRP), tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and oxidative stress.  These diseases cost India (in estimates related to mortality) in excess of $210 billion dollars each year.  In India, diabetes is expected to grow to 70 million in the next 15 years. 

“This study is significant because it does two things,” stated Dr Seema Gulati, co-investigator of the study and Chief Project Officer of the India Diabetes Foundation.

“These results show that simple dietary changes, such as a daily snack of pistachios, can have a positive impact in the battle against chronic diseases like diabetes.  Second, it dispels the myth that pistachios are ‘fattening’ and raise cholesterol levels, because the study shows quite the opposite.”

In this six-month randomised study, 60 subjects with metabolic syndrome were placed on a high fibre, low-fat diet.  For 12 weeks, 30 of these subjects were given a daily snack of pistachios, making that a 15 per cent of their daily calorie intake.  After 12 weeks, pistachio intake was increased to 20 per cent of their total calorie intake for another 12 weeks.  
At the end of the study, a 25 per cent reduction in CRP, 32 per cent reduction in TNF-α and a 50 per cent reduction in lipid peroxidation was seen in the pistachio diet. CRP, TNF-α and lipid peroxidation are biomarkers for inflammation and oxidative stress, respectively, which are associated with chronic diseases including diabetes and heart disease.  

“Results like this are promising at a time when one-third of Indians suffer from one of metabolic syndrome,” states Dr Anoop Misra, lead investigator of the study and Director of the India Diabetes Foundation. “Without intervention, these statistics will only worsen and this shows that a healthy diet, and one that includes pistachios, may have a positive impact.”

A 30 gram serving of pistachios provides more than 30 different nutrients including vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytonutrients. A handful of pistachios — about 30 — is a sensible snack for approximately 100 calories.  As the only in-shell snack nut, pistachios are a “mindful” snack. In-shell pistachios take longer to eat, encouraging snackers to slow down and be aware of their metabolic rate.  Research shows that in-shell snackers eat 41 per cent fewer calories than those who snack on shelled nuts.