Pistachio, nuts
In the new study, regular consumption of pistachios helped type 2 diabetic patients manage stress, lowered blood pressure and helped keep heart healthy.Divya Thakur/Flickr

Pistachios are good for diabetics, a new study says.

Exposure to stress- physical or emotional- is known to raise blood sugar levels. Though normal, healthy people manage to keep blood sugar levels under control, due to lack of proper mechanisms, people suffering from diabetes fail to put a hold on their increased blood sugar levels, David Sledge, MD, medical director of diabetes management at The Ochsner Clinic Foundation in Baton Rouge, told WebMD. When left untreated, this raised blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage, cardiovascular diseases, kidney problems and blindness.

In the new study, regular consumption of pistachios helped type 2 diabetic patients manage stress, lower blood pressure and keep the heart healthy.

"In adults with diabetes, two servings of pistachios per day lowered vascular constriction during stress and improved neural control of the heart," Sheila G. West, professor of biobehavioral health and nutritional sciences at the Penn State University in US, 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."

During the first two weeks of the study, participants received an American diet with 36 percent fat and 12 percent saturated fats. The next one month, participants received either a standard heart healthy diet (27 percent fat and 7 percent saturated fat) or a diet that included three ounces or 150 pistachio nuts (33 percent fat, 7 percent saturated fat), both salted and unsalted- twice a day.

Participants also underwent tests that measured their blood pressure and total peripheral vascular resistance while taking rest or while undertaking stressful tasks - a cold water challenge that involved keeping hand in icy water for two minutes and a confusing mental arithmetic test.

Eating pistachios was associated with lowered blood pressure and relaxed blood vessels. Interestingly, the pistachio diet also helped improve activity of vagus nerve and heart rate variability that often get affected by high blood glucose levels.

"After the pistachio diet, blood vessels remained more relaxed and open during the stress tests. We found that systolic blood pressure during sleep was particularly affected by pistachios. Average sleep blood pressure was reduced by about 4 points and this would be expected to lower workload on the heart," West said. "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 added later.

The study has been published in Journal of the American Heart Association.

Pistachios- Some Nutritional Facts

Copper, manganese, thiamine, fibre, phosphorus, vitamin B6 are some of the vital nutrients found in pistachios, according to the Pistachio Health Institute. Taking 30 g or one ounce of the nuts (49 pistachio nuts) provides 160 calories, 6 grams of protein, 11 grams of healthy fat and 3 grams of fibre.

Some proven health benefits of Pistachios as provided by American Pistachio Growers:

  • Protect heart by lowering systolic blood pressure and heart rate
  • Lower bad cholesterol
  • Weight management
  • Body uses fewer calories from the pistachios as the pistachio dietary fat often is resistant to get absorbed completely