Nutrition information



Researchers found a diet containing pecans lowers total and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. The pecan diet also helps to maintain desirable levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.


Pecans Add Taste, Lower Cholesterol

[From Food Ingredient News, October 2001]

Researchers at Loma Linda University [11234 Anderson St., Loma Linda, CA 92354; Tel: 909/558-8000] found the addition of pecans to the Step I diet of the American Heart Association [AHA] lowered cholesterol levels in research subjects, according to a recent study published in the September issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers found a diet containing pecans not only lowered total and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, twice that of the AHA diet, but the pecan diet also helped to maintain desirable levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.

Lead investigators Sujatha Rajaram, assistant professor of public health and preventive medicine, School of Public Health, and Joan Sabat, chair and professor of nutrition, School of Public Health, conducted a study requiring all research subjects to eat the majority of their meals in a laboratory kitchen during a period of 8 wk. The study included 23 men and women and measured their cholesterol levels while on the step I diet when 20% of their calories were replaced with pecans.

In the diet pecans were added to cereals, salads, and entrees such as pasta, amounting to about a handful of pecans a day.

“We found that the pecan-containing diet lowered ‘bad’ cholesterol more than twice as much as the AHA step I diet,” says Rajaram.

Comparing the participants’ baseline cholesterol values, the pecan-containing diet lowered LDL cholesterol levels by 16.5%, more than twice as much as did the step I diet. When compared with participants’ cholesterol values on the AHA step I diet, the pecan diet lowered total cholesterol levels by 11.3%, more than twice as much as the step I diet.

The National Cholesterol Education Program [NCEP] says for every 1% reduction in LDL cholesterol found a 1.5% reduction in the incidence of coronary heart disease [CHD] is produced. The study using the NCEP figure says the cholesterol-lowering effects of the pecan diet results in a 25% decrease in the risk of CHD.

HDL level results found the step I diet actually lowered HDL levels, but the pecan diet increased HDL by 5.6%.

“This cholesterol-lowering effect is similar to what is often seen with cholesterol-lowering medications,” says Sabat. “We confirmed that the addition of pecans to a basic heart-healthy diet will yield very desirable blood lipid profiles.” Sabat says, “Many consumers find low-fat, heart-healthy diets unpalatable and difficult to adhere to.”

Participants say pecans added taste, palatability, and satiety.