Major Study Finds Nut Consumption Linked with Reduced Stroke Risk

Pecans A Good Dietary Source of Vitamin E

There’s more good news on the health front for pecans. A new study has found that foods which are good dietary sources of vitamin E – such as nuts, mayonnaise and margarine – may significantly decrease the risk of death from stroke.

The research, reported in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is based on a prospective study of 34,492 postmenopausal Iowa women whose food intake and health outcomes were tracked for a number of years. An analysis of their answers to dietary questionnaires found that women who ate diets that contained the most vitamin E-rich foods – nuts, seeds, margarine, mayonnaise and creamy dressings – were less likely to die from stroke, according to the study’s investigators. In fact, death from stroke was 60% lower among those in the highest quintile of vitamin E intake from foods compared to those in the lowest quintile. Other antioxidant vitamins (e.g., vitamin C) or vitamin E supplements were not shown to have any protective effect. “We were pleased to learn about this research, knowing that it offers consumers additional assurance that pecans can and should be part of a healthful diet,” says Russ Lemieux, executive director of the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA).

The findings from this epidemiology research are in keeping with a similar study published in 1996 in The New England Journal of Medicine. That study was based on the same group of postmenopausal Iowa women who also were monitored for a number of years. The 1996 research concluded that women who ate diets that contained the most vitamin E-rich foods (again, nuts, seeds, margarine, mayonnaise and creamy dressings) had one-half to two-thirds lower incidence of coronary heart disease. Both studies were supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

“These findings are of particular importance as the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin E has recently been raised for both men and women. Scientists are recognizing the importance that vitamin E from foods plays in the overall diet – especially in relation to cardiovascular health,” said Beth Hubrich, a dietitian with NPSA. ” Eating foods like pecans – which are rich in healthy nutrients – appears to the best way to get the vitamin E our bodies need,” she added.

This latest research adds to the growing evidence that nuts (such as pecans) not only taste good, they’re also good for you. In addition to containing vitamin E and cholesterol-lowering properties (as was demonstrated in a study published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association), pecans also contain vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and several B vitamins. Pecans are naturally cholesterol-free and sodium-free, and one serving provides about 10 percent of the Daily Value for zinc and fiber. Pecans are a particularly good source of unsaturated fats, including the monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid. Oleic acid, also found in olive oil, is a staple of the heart-healthy “Mediterranean diet.” A serving of pecans (30 grams or about one ounce) actually has about 25-30 percent more oleic acid than a serving of olive oil (one tablespoon). The government’s newly released Dietary Guidelines for Americans acknowledge that as part of a balanced diet, consumers can eat moderate amounts of fat as long as it is predominantly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated – the heart-healthy, unsaturated fats.

Now, with all of these new research findings on pecans, there are more reasons than ever for consumers to make pecans part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.