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Pistachios Lowers Stress Response in Diabetics

Update Date: Aug 06, 2014 03:37 PM EDT

Snacking on pistachios can help lower stress in diabetics, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at the effects of pistachios on responses to standardized stress tasks in patients with type 2 diabetes. All participants were provided with meals that contained the same amount of calories.

After being put on a typical American diet, which contained 36 percent fat and 12 percent saturated fats, for two weeks, the participants were randomly assigned to one of the two test diets. Researchers noted that participants ate only food supplied in the four-week diet study.

Test diets included a standard heart-healthy diet, which contained 27 percent fat and 7 percent saturated fat, and a diet containing two daily servings or three ounces of pistachios.

Researchers said that the pistachio diet contained 33 percent fat and 7 percent saturated fat, and half of the nuts consumed each day were salted, and half were unsalted.

Participants' blood pressure and total peripheral vascular resistance at rest and during two stress tests were then measured after the each four-week diet period.

"In adults with diabetes, two servings of pistachios per day lowered vascular constriction during stress and improved neural control of the heart," lead researcher Sheila G. West, professor of biobehavioral health and nutritional sciences, said in a news release. "Although nuts are high in fat, they contain good fats, fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Given the high risk of heart disease in people with diabetes, nuts are an important component of a heart healthy diet in this population."

"After the pistachio diet, blood vessels remained more relaxed and open during the stress tests," West said.

"We found that systolic blood pressure during sleep was particularly affected by pistachios," she said. "Average sleep blood pressure was reduced by about 4 points and this would be expected to lower workload on the heart."

While participants still felt stressed during the stress tests, the study revealed that the pistachio diet significantly lowered their bodies' responses to stress.

"If sustained with longer term treatment, these improvements in sleep blood pressure, vascular response to stress and vagal control of the heart could reduce risk of heart disease in this high risk group," West concluded.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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