Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Pistachios May Lower LDL Cholesterol

But You've Got to Make Room in Your Calorie Budget for Them
By
WebMD Health News

Pistachios Protect Heart

Sept. 11, 2008 -- Pistachios may help curb less-than-ideal levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol, a new study shows.

But there's a catch: if you add pistachios to your diet, you've got to cut back elsewhere to keep your calorie count steady, since gaining extra weight won't do your heart any favors.

Related Medications

More information on common Cholesterol drugs from RxList:

 

Nuts are already known to be good for your heart when eaten in moderation as part of a low-fat diet. Since 2003, the FDA has allowed almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and peanuts to make a qualified health claim to that effect.

The new study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is only about pistachios. Almonds and walnuts have been featured in most of the previous nut studies, so the researchers, who included Pennsylvania State University graduate student Sarah Gebauer and Distinguished Professor Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, put pistachios in the spotlight.

The key question: Would one or two daily servings of pistachios pack a punch against LDL cholesterol?

Pistachio Power

The pistachio study included 28 adults whose LDL cholesterol level was higher than the optimal range. Their average LDL level was in "borderline high" range when the study started.

Apart from their cholesterol levels, participants were healthy. None was taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.

First, participants spent two weeks on a standard American diet rich in full-fat cheese, oil, and butter and lacking pistachios.

Next came a month on a low-fat diet without pistachios, another month on a healthy diet that included one daily serving of pistachios, and a third month eating a similar diet with two daily servings of pistachios, with two-week breaks between each type of diet.

Participants got all their food, packaged into appropriate serving sizes, from the researchers. And they stuck to their assigned diets pretty well, the study shows.

Lower LDL

Average LDL levels fell when participants ate pistachios -- not enough to get their LDL levels into the optimal range, but enough to get it out of the "borderline high" category.

LDL cholesterol level dropped by 9% during the month that participants ate a daily serving of pistachios and by 12% when they had two daily servings of pistachios.

As for the low-fat diet, it didn't trim LDL cholesterol. That surprised the researchers. What happened? The researchers aren't sure, but they note that the low-fat diet was lower in polyunsaturated fats (which include heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids) and higher in carbohydrates than the pistachio diets.

Pistachios didn't affect levels of HDL cholesterol, which is often called "good" cholesterol.

The study was funded in part by the California Pistachio Commission.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

Get the latest Cholesterol Management newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

cholesterol lab test report
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
Compressed heart
Article
chocolate glazed donut and avocado
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
Slideshow
Cholesterol Fact or Fiction
Quiz
 
Food & Fitness Planner
TOOL
Attractive salad
ARTICLE
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
worst sandwich slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Fat Foods Fit Foods
SLIDESHOW
Bad Cholesterol
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections