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Pistachios a sound strategy for lowering diabetes risk


Pistachios as part of a balanced diet make for a sound strategy to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Here’s more about this magical nut, which is emerging as a great snack food option as well…

Pistachios a sound strategy for lowering diabetes risk
New research suggests that eating pistachios may help to lower blood sugar and insulin levels while reversing some indicators of pre-diabetes

India is facing an epidemic of diabetes. At present, confirmed diabetes patients in India are 67 million. Whereas there are an estimated 77.2 million people in India who are suffering from pre-diabetes. By 2030, India will have the largest number of patients in the world. Diet and exercise changes can help to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and new research suggests that eating pistachios may help to lower blood sugar and insulin levels while reversing some indicators of pre-diabetes.

The study, published in Diabetes Care, a scientific journal of the American Diabetes Association, suggests that pistachios may have glucose- and insulin-lowering effects and promote a healthier metabolic profile in people with prediabetes. This is because the great nutrition in American-grown pistachios – protein,healthy fats and fiber – may all help lower blood glucose.The findings of this new study add to the literature on health benefits of nuts in general, and pistachios in particular.

If recognised early, prediabetes can be prevented and treated. It is estimated that more than 900 million people worldwide exhibit some risk factors and if left untreated, up to seven percent annually will progress to type 2 diabetes. “India is the World Capital of Diabetes and Coronary Artery Disease. It is exciting to know that something as simple as eating one and a half ounces of pistachio everyday can reduce the risk of developing Diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

In July 2003, FDA approved the first qualified health claim of using pistachios, specifically in lowering risk of heart disease,” says Senior Consultant in Cardiology and Advisor to Apollo Group of Hospitals, Dr (Prof.) N N Khanna. This randomised, cross-over, controlled clinical study consisted of 54 adults with pre-diabetes who were divided into two groups. One group ate two ounces of pistachios daily for four months, and then followed a control diet of olive oil and other fats instead of pistachios for four months.

The second group began with the control diet followed by the pistachio diet. The diets were matched for protein, fiber and saturated fatty acids.

The researchers confirmed fasting blood sugar levels, insulin and hormonal markers decreased significantly during the pistachio diet compared to the control diet, where these levels and markers actually increased. Signs of inflammation were also reported to have decreased among the pistachio diet. In addition, neither group experienced weight gain.

This is the latest study in a growing body of research that indicates pistachios may play an important role in the diets of those who have or are at risk of developing diabetes. Supported in part by American Pistachio Growers, the study was undertaken by researchers with the UniversitatRovira I Virguli, Reus and Instituto de Salud Carolos III, both in Spain. None of the funding sources played a role in the design,collection, analysis or interpretation of the data.


Diet Quality

  • Pistachio eaters tend to have better diets overall and eat more fiber, vitamins and minerals
  • Pistachios are rich in plant compounds with health protective activity, such as phenolic compounds, carotenoids, and phytosterols
  • Pistachios are a plant source of protein (and amino acid arginine) and are lower in fat and carbohydrates than most nuts.

Weight Management

Pistachios are five per cent lower in calories than estimated previously. Research shows that eating pistachios is not associated with weight gain or obesity and is linked with reduced waist circumference. Some studies show that choosing in-shell pistachios (opposed to unshelled) may result in reduced calorie intake due to the visual cue of empty pistachio shells.

Heart Health

According to recent research, certain nutrients in pistachios may support heart health by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, blood pressure, oxidative stress and inflammation, and improving endothelial function.

Blood Sugar Control

High fiber, healthy fats, and health protective compounds in pistachios may help maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Pistachios are low in carbohydrates and don’t signifi cantly raise blood sugar after eating  low glycemic index). Adding pistachios to a high glycemic meal like potatoes and pasta help reduce glycemic response. When added to a meal in place of high-carb food, pistachios may help improve blood glucose control over time.