A daily dose of pistachios can help fight diabetes and heart disease, according to a study conducted by the Diabetes Foundation India, a non-government organisation (NGO).
The study shows that pistachios help reduce body fat and cholesterol, which in turn helps control the onset of these diseases.
A study, conducted between 2009 and 2011, included 60 Delhi residents who suffered from metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Risk factors include high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, and borderline diabetes among others.
The 60 patients were given a low fat, high fibre diet with lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise. For the initial 12 weeks, 30 of them were given a 15 % of total calories required in their diet in the form of pistachio. For the subsequent 12 weeks, the dosage of
pistachios was increased to 20% of the required caloric intake, explained Dr Seema Gulati, co-investigator of the study and chief project officer of the Foundation.
"The study revealed that the people eating pistachios had reduced body fat, cholesterol levels, markers of inflammation and oxidative stress (stressful condition for the body created because of cell damage) significantly as compared to the control group," said Dr Gulati.
Pistachios, however, have a high monounsaturated fat and protein content. So, one should not eat more than 30 nuts (18 g) more than four times a week.
Pistachios, the study proved, helped increase adiponectin, a chemical compound that enhances insulin sensitivity and reduces the chance of contracting diabetes. A handful of pistachios (nearly 40 pistachio nuts) can be included in daily diet for the prevention of diabetes and other related diseases.
"Patients on the pistachio diet also saw about nearly 12% significant reduction in total and bad cholesterol levels," said Dr Anoop Misra, lead investigator of the study and the director of the Foundation.
The study was presented on November 5 at the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI) conference in Mumbai.
"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," Dr Gulati said.