Frequent consumption of nuts is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. We investigated the effect of pecans rich in monounsaturated fat as an alternative to the Step 1 diet in modifying serum lipids and lipoproteins in men and women with normal to moderately high serum cholesterol.
In a single-blind, randomized, controlled, crossover feeding study, we assigned 23 subjects (mean age: 38 y; 9 women, 14 men) to follow two diets, each for 4 wk: a Step I diet and a pecan-enriched diet (accomplished by proportionately reducing all food items in a Step I diet by one fifth for a 20% isoenergetic replacement with pecans). The percentage of energy from fat in the two diets was 28.3 and 39.6%, respectively.
Both diets improved the lipid profile; however, the pecan-enriched diet decreased both serum total and LDL cholesterol by 0.32 mmol/L (6.7 and 10.4%, respectively) and triglyceride by 0.14 mmol/L (11.1%) beyond the Step I diet, while increasing HDL cholesterol by 0.06 mmol/L (2.5 mg/dL).
Serum apolipoprotein B and lipoprotein(a) decreased by 11.6 and 11.1%, respectively, and apolipoprotein A1 increased by 2.2% when subjects consumed the pecan compared with the Step I diet. These differences were all significant (P < 0.05). A 20% isoenergetic replacement of a Step I diet with pecans favorably altered the serum lipid profile beyond the Step I diet, without increasing body weight.
Nuts such as pecans that are rich in monounsaturated fat may therefore be recommended as part of prescribed cholesterol-lowering diet of patients or habitual diet of healthy individuals.