That’s nuts! Eating pecans may prevent obesity and inflammation

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — If you’ve been looking for a healthy snack to incorporate into your diet, new research makes a compelling case for pecans. Scientists at Texas A&M report pecans may help prevent obesity, as well as reduce inflammation.

“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,” says Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, Ph.D., professor of horticulture and food science in the Department of Horticultural Sciences in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and affiliate scientist in the Institute for Advancing Health Through Agriculture, in a university release. “People are searching for healthier options, and we have now shown pecans are a healthy tool consumers have in their hands.”

Prof. Cisneros-Zevallos’s work provides further scientific evidence in support of the traditional knowledge in the Americas that pecans are a highly nutritious food source, according to Amit Dhingra, Ph.D., head of the Department of Horticultural Sciences.

“Thanks to Dr. Cisneros-Zevallos’ work, we now know what potential mechanisms underlie that nutritional benefit,” Dhingra comments. “Our department is focused on the areas of sustainability, wellness and food security, and this research illustrates the relevance of horticultural crops for human health.”

Photo by Deryn Macey from Unsplash

This project was conducted in collaboration with an interdisciplinary collaborative team featuring Claudia Delgadillo-Puga, Ph.D., and Ivan Torre-Villalvazo, Ph.D., at the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition Salvador Zubiran, Mexico.

The research team applied pecans and high-fat diets to a series of mice models, which led to the discovery that pecans increased energy expenditure and reduced both dysbiosis and inflammation. This work confirms pecans modulate adipose tissue lipolysis and mitochondrial oxidative metabolism in liver and skeletal muscle.

Prof. Cisneros-Zevallos also stresses the observed anti-inflammatory properties of pecans. These properties reduce low-grade inflammation that can lead to chronic inflammation and the development of numerous prevalent diseases. He adds these findings indicate pecans maintain body weight and prevent diabetes – even while consuming a high-fat diet.

All in all, study authors call pecans a superfood that can be eaten directly or utilized in the growing markets of both functional foods and dietary supplements.

“This observation is key when designing strategies for studies, the more we know of unique functionalities of pecans, the more possibilities to create healthier products,” Prof. Cisneros-Zevallos concludes. “Pecans are of economic and historical importance to Texas and the U.S., and their production provides stability to farmers. This work will aid in the development of novel uses and products from pecans.”

The study is published in the journal Nutrients.

This study received funding from the Texas Pecan Board, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and the Institute for Advancing Health Through Agriculture at Texas A&M AgriLife.

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