study published in The Journal of Nutrition provides important evidence that the noble pecan is a powerful functional food providing essential antioxidant nutrients to support cardiovascular health. Pecans contain bioactive compounds including the tocopherol fraction of vitamin E that lowers levels of damaging inflammation known to provoke arterial plaque and lead to sudden death from a heart attack. A handful of pecans each day are shown to be helpful in lowering the risks associated with heart disease and cancer.
Researchers now understand that heart disease risk is much more a factor determined by LDL particle size and oxidative status rather than the total serum LDL level. Pecans contain one of the critical vitamin E fractions called gamma tocopherol known to be important in raising antioxidant blood levels, along with other naturally occurring phenolic substances that enhance the free radical scavenging ability of the nut.
Pecans Raise Gamma-Tocopherol Levels to Lower Systemic Inflammation
gamma-tocopherol levels in the body doubled with pecan consumption and unhealthy oxidized LDL levels dropped by a third. Researchers found that eating the pecans each day significantly increased the amount of antioxidants available to neutralize free radicals and lowered systemic inflammation. The risk of developing heart disease and cancer was lowered by regular consumption of this single functional food.
The study included 16 men and women aged 23 to 44 who ate from one of three specially prepared diets. The first group ate a meal consisting of 3 ounces of whole pecans while a second group ate the same quantity of nuts mixed with water. A third group ate a controlled meal with no pecans. Blood samples were taken prior to eating the first meal and at regular intervals for a period of 24 hours after eating.
Pecan Consumption Improve Antioxidant Status to Lower Disease Risk
The lead study author Dr. Ella Haddad found that pecans are a powerful ally in the prevention of chronic disease and noted “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.” Health-minded people will want to add a healthy handful of organically grown pecans to their daily menu to control the risks associated with oxidized LDL cholesterol, heart disease and cancer.