UGA study finds pecans can help to lower cholesterol

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Many mouths begin to water at the thought of pecan pie. .If you try to save money by shaking a pecan tree, however, you could end up paying a steeper price.In Georgia, it's illegal to pick pecans, shake a pecan tree or pick pecans up off the ground during harvest season.The law applies to privately owned pecan trees and orchards.Once the harvest season is over, you can go nuts. Pecans left on the ground are considered abandoned

Pecans are high in healthy fatty acids and fiber, both of which have been linked to lower cholesterol

Your elevated cholesterol levels might be driving you nuts, so it’s only right that a nut — specifically, the pecan — can help lower them.

A new study by researchers at the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences reports the tree nut can dramatically improve your cholesterol.

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Researchers reported participants who ate pecans experienced a 5% drop in total cholesterol and a 6-9% drop in LDL. For context, they compared their results to a meta-analysis of 51 exercises designed to lower cholesterol. Results of that meta-analysis showed only a 1% reduction in total cholesterol and 5% in LDL.

According to the study, after just eight-weeks, participants at risk for cardiovascular disease showed significant improvement in total cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein, otherwise called LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

“This dietary intervention, when put in the context of different intervention studies, was extremely successful,” Jamie Cooper, a professor in the FACS department of nutritional sciences and one of the study’s authors, told UGA Today. “We had some people who actually went from having high cholesterol at the start of the study to no longer being in that category after the intervention.”

“The addition of pecans to the diet not only produced a greater and more consistent reduction in total cholesterol and LDL compared to many other lifestyle interventions, but may also be a more sustainable approach for long-term health,” Cooper said.

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For their study, the researchers placed 52 people ages 30-75 into one of three groups: those who ate about 470 calories of pecans in addition to their regular meals; those who substituted those pecans for something else in their meals; and those who did not consume pecans.

“Whether people added them or substituted other foods in the diet for them, we still saw improvements and pretty similar responses in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in particular,” said Cooper, who also serves as director of the UGA Obesity Initiative.

Pecans are high in healthy fatty acids and fiber, both of which have been linked to lower cholesterol.

It’s only fitting a pecan study was done at UGA. Georgia is historically the top pecan producing state in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, yielding about 33% of the nation’s total production.

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You can read the full study in the Journal of Nutrition.

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