Pecans pack a punch in fighting obesity, diabetes and inflammation

Scientists have made the case for pecans to be given ‘superfood’ status as a new study reveals the nut reveals has some surprising strengths. Researchers from the US and Mexico found that consumption of pecans (Carya illinoinensis) could successfully mitigate the health impacts of a high-fat diet, increasing energy expenditure, decreasing dysbiosis – a gut imbalance that can lead to many unpleasant digestion issues – and reducing inflammation.

Mice were studied for 18 weeks, with one group on a high-fat diet and given whole pecans, and another on a similar diet but with pecan polyphenol extract.

Both the whole pecans and the extract supplement saw a resounding reduction in fat mass, blood cholesterol, insulin and HOMA-IR (Homeostatic Model Assessment for Insulin Resistance). The nuts boosted metabolic activity in brown adipose tissue and reduced hepatic lipid content.

Metabolic dysfunction and hepatic lipid accumulation plays a big role in chronic conditions such as fatty liver disease.

“Obesity and diabetes numbers are increasing in modern society worldwide, and the trend in high-fat-diet consumption is one of the main reasons besides lifestyle and genetic predisposition,” said Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, professor of horticulture and food science at the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “People are searching for healthier options, and we have now shown pecans are a healthy tool consumers have in their hands.”

Already known to be high in heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids and fiber, the nuts also contain vitamins E and A, some B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and zinc. This research joins a growing body of work that has focused on the health benefits of nuts.

While more research is needed, the scientists believe the mouse model mirrors human metabolism. The study suggests that a person weighing 130 lb (59 kg) should aim to eat 22-25 pecan halves, or 21.6-36 g of defatted pecan flour per day. There are around 196 calories in 20 pecan halves.

There’s also the potential for the development of new supplements.

“The more we know of unique functionalities of pecans, the more possibilities to create healthier products,” Cisneros-Zevallos said. “This work will aid in the development of novel uses and products from pecans.”

The research was published in MDPI.

Source: Texas A&M University

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