Researchers at Loma Linda University in California linked pecans to slowing down the unwanted oxidation of blood lipids by up to 7.4 per cent, in turn potentially lowering the risk of heart disease.
Pecans are especially rich in a form of vitamin E, gamma tocopherol, which is thought to protect fats from oxidation.
The study is published in Nutrition Research (volume 26, issue 8, August 2006, 397-402).
The Loma Linda University researchers analyzed blood samples from 23 men and women between the ages of 25 and 55. The participants were randomly placed on either the American Heart Association's Step I diet or the study’s pecan-enriched version of the diet in which 20 per cent of calories were replaced with pecans.
After four weeks on one diet, each group switched to the other diet.
"We concluded that even though the pecan diet was high in unsaturated fats, which one may think would increase blood oxidation, that did not happen,” said Dr.Haddad. “We found the opposite result: the pecan diet showed reduced oxidation of blood lipids."