Posts Tagged “nuts”

Making Cashews Safer for Those with Allergies

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DSCN4150By The American Chemical Society

SAN FRANCISCO  — For the millions of adults and children in the U.S. who have to shun nuts to avoid an allergic reaction, help could be on the way. Scientists are now developing a method to process cashews — and potentially other nuts — that could make them safer to eat for people who are allergic to them.

The researchers recently presented their work at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

“The only widely accepted practice for preventing an allergic reaction to nuts is strict avoidance — stay away from the food,” notes Chris Mattison, Ph.D. “Clinical trials to test immunotherapy are underway, but we’re approaching it from an agricultural perspective rather than medical. Can we change the food, instead of treating the person, so we can eliminate or reduce severe reactions?”

For those with food allergies, responses to offending products can range from mild itching in the mouth or skin to life-threatening anaphylaxis, which makes it hard to breathe. Once every three minutes, someone in the U.S. ends up in the emergency room due to a food allergy reaction — that adds up to about 200,000 visits a year.

To try to reduce those numbers, Mattison’s team is looking at ways to modify proteins in tree nuts and peanuts (which are legumes) that trigger an immune response in people who are allergic. The response is launched by antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE), which recognize and latch onto the proteins. Mattison explains that changing the shape of the proteins makes it harder for IgE to find them.

But past research taking this approach has involved harsh chemicals. Mattison, a researcher with the Agricultural Research Service branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wanted to see if his team could achieve the same results, but using compounds that are “generally regarded as safe,” or GRAS. These are substances that are accepted by the Food and Drug Administration for use in food and pharmaceuticals.

“We found that the GRAS compound sodium sulfite can effectively disrupt the structure of a couple of the cashew allergens,” Mattison says. “And we’ve done a couple of different tests to show we reduced IgE binding to the proteins when they’ve been treated with sodium sulfite.”

Next, they plan to conduct experiments on whole nuts and test the modified proteins on cells in the lab to see how they respond. They’re also looking at enzymes, which are molecules that can cut up proteins, as candidates to disrupt the allergens.

And, although this particular report focuses on cashew proteins, Mattison says the work could have broader implications. The kinds of allergenic proteins the GRAS compound and enzymes affect are not exclusive to one kind of nut.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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Consumption of Nuts is Motivated by Health, Weight Needs

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By The NPD Group

IMG_6445The recently released Harvard study on the health benefits of eating nuts  just confirmed what health conscious consumers already know, that nuts are good for you, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company.  NPD’s food market research finds that nuts rank among the top 10 snack-oriented convenience foods for U.S. consumers motivated by health and weight needs.

Nuts are a popular snack for breakfast and morning snack but are eaten throughout the day by health and weight conscious consumers who want a nutritious, natural, better-for-you snack, according to NPD’s Snacking in America report, which examines long-term attitudes and behaviors about snacking as well as snack selection drivers. Consumers who are motivated to choose nuts and other better-for-you snacks based on health and weight needs tend to be seniors and empty nesters, adult females, and higher income households.  

The consumption of nuts is not limited to the health and weight conscious. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. households have nuts or seeds on-hand and 19 percent of individuals eat nuts at least once in a two week period, finds NPD.  Nuts are consumed primarily as an in-home snack but are often incorporated into morning, lunch, and dinner meals.  In addition to its choice as a healthier snack, nuts are also popular among consumers looking for a filling or a quick, convenient snack.    

“Whether to meet the needs of the health and weight conscious or as an easy grab-and-go snack, nuts are a popular choice among snackers,” says Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst.   “Food manufacturers and retailers have a variety of options and audiences for marketing nuts.”

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Studies Show Pistachios Good for Heart, Weight Control, Pregnancies

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DSCN1634Based on the results of four recent medical studies, health-wise consumers may want to include a handful of pistachios in their daily diet. Eating nuts such as pistachios has been associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, lower heart disease risk factors, lower body weight, and better outcomes during pregnancy.

First, a review of eight relevant studies has been published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine on the effect of pistachios on blood lipid profiles. With a single exception, all of the studies reported a decrease in the mean LDL (commonly regarded as bad) cholesterol in a range from 7.6 to 9.7% of the baseline.  Drawing from PUBMED and Loma Linda University database searches, researchers from East Carolina University and the University of Tennessee found the majority of studies reported a statistically significant improvement in HDL and LDL cholesterol ratios. They concluded that adding pistachios to a diet can benefit individuals with normal and high LDL cholesterol. This result is consistent with other studies associating nut consumption with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, as noted in the following examples.

A PREDIMED study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February focused on the cardiovascular benefits of a Mediterranean diet that’s rich in nuts and extra-virgin olive oil. Researchers looked at individuals at high risk for heart disease and found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts resulted in a substantial reduction of major cardiovascular events. A total of 7,447 persons aged 55 to 80 participated for at least four years. They did not have cardiovascular disease when the study began, but were at risk for developing it because they had diabetes or at least three major risk factors, including smoking, high blood pressure, an elevated LDL cholesterol level, obesity or overweight, or a family history of premature heart disease. In the trial the Mediterranean diet groups resulted in a relative risk reduction of approximately 30%, including a significant reduction in the risk of stroke.

In the third paper, as published in PLOS ONE, the PREDIMED study researchers looked at the same persons who were at high risk for heart disease at the start of the study and compared those who ate nuts three times per week versus those who ate them less than once a week. Subjects who ate nuts three times per week or more had a significantly lower prevalence of obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. The nuts included pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts and cashews.

As background, PREDIMED is an acronym for a long-term, multi-center nutritional intervention study (PREvención con Dieta MEDiterránea) that was designed to examine the effects of the Mediterranean diet in the prevention of cardiac diseases. Launched in 2003 with a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Health, it is recognized for the size of its sample (more than 7,400 subjects), the length of time (on average of four years) and its scientific rigor (randomized controlled study). Additional funding was received from the Centre Català de la Nutrició de l’Institut d’Estudis Catalans.

“Nuts, including pistachios, are rich in nutrients and filled with antioxidants, vitamins, protein and fiber that have been found to be heart healthy and not cause weight gain,” said Constance Geiger, Ph.D., R.D., Nutrition Consultant, American Pistachio Growers. She continues, “Studies show that substituting pistachios for other snacks or proteins improves the nutrient quality of the diet and is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.”

Finally, a fourth study appeared in the February issue of Diabetes Care. Led by Wei Bao, M.D., Ph.D., a research team examined the association between protein intake and gestational diabetes. A vegetable protein diet, specifically with nuts, in place of an animal protein diet, in particular red meat, was associated with a lower risk of gestational diabetes mellitus.  The study extended over a 10-year period and included more than 21,000 healthy pregnancies among the 15,294 participants of the well-known and ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II cohort study.  This study was funded by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health. The Nurses’ Health Study was funded by research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Pistachio Fact4s

Pistachios are a cholesterol-free snack that contains just 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 13 grams of fat per serving, the majority of which comes from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. A one-ounce serving of pistachios equals 49 nuts, which is more per serving than any other snack nut.  Pistachios contain as much potassium per serving (300 mg, 8%) as an orange (250 mg, 7%), making them a nutritious snack choice or ingredient to incorporate into daily diets.

About American Pistachio Growers

American Pistachio Growers is a voluntary trade association representing pistachio growers, processors and industry partners in California, Arizona and New Mexico.  These states represent 100% of domestic commercial pistachio production. APG pistachios are the “Official Snack” of USA Water Polo, professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones and the Miss California Organization. APG and its ambassadors share the goal of increasing national awareness about the nutritional benefits of pistachios. For more information, visit

Source: American Pistachio Growers

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Record, or Near Record Loads Seen for Peanuts and Other Nuts

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Record or near record shipments of peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are predicted by the USDA in the coming months. In fact, most types of nuts are expected to be plentiful for the fall, holiday and winter season, coming off of the 2012 harvest.

For example, record shipments of peanuts are predicted for the top four producing states of Georgia, Florida, Alabama and number four Texas. Georgia has nearly 60 percent more planted acrerage than a year ago and expects to ship over 2.8 million pounds of peanuts. The state accounts for nearly 50 percent of the nation’s peanut shipments.

Total U.S. peanut shipments are projected to be 5.9 million pounds in 2012, up from 3.6 million in 2011.

Almond loadings are expected to be up three percent from last year, totalling 2.1 billion meat pounds for 2012 on some 780,000 acres. California ships about 80 percent of the world’s almonds, with the leaders being Georgia, Texas and New Mexico. Total USA loadings in 2011 amounted to about 270 million pounds, and this is seen as increasing this year.

California also accounts for about 99 percent of the walnut volume in the United States, up two percent from a year ago. It’s not a record, but is close.

Record pistachio shipments are forecast out of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada totalling 550 to 575 million pounds.


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Pistachios are Good for Blood Pressure, Study Says

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Looking for healthy food in your local supermarket produce department.  Nuts are often cited for healthy reasons – and a new study on pistachios is favorable.

A Pennsylvania State University study published online this month in Hypertension, an American Heart Association Journal, reveals that including pistachios in a healthy diet may positively reduce the body’s response to the stresses of everyday life.

Adults with elevated cholesterol were enrolled in a randomized, controlled clinical trial comparing diets containing pistachios to a low fat diet. The results show that a healthy diet supplemented with pistachios helps decrease systolic blood pressure, peripheral vascular resistance and heart rate during acute stress. Cardiovascular responses were measured while participants engaged in a challenging mental arithmetic test and again as they immersed their foot in cold water.

The study conducted at Pennsylvania State University by Drs. Sheila G. West and Penny M. Kris-Etherton and colleagues examined how diets containing pistachios
(one-and-a-half and three ounces per day) versus a low-fat diet without pistachios, affect responses to stress on subjects with elevated LDL cholesterol, but normal blood pressure. This study is the first to show that including both salted and unsalted pistachios in a healthy diet helps reduce blood pressure and lessen the vascular load on the heart.

The people in the study were healthy, non-smoking men and women with elevated LDL cholesterol (commonly regarded as bad cholesterol) but normal blood pressure. All of the meals were provided and calorie levels were customized to maintain body weight. Pistachios were substituted for other foods in the diet to prevent weight gain. Participants followed three different diets – one low fat diet (25% fat ) without pistachios, and two with different levels of pistachios (approximately 1.5 oz or 10% of calories from pistachios and 3.0 oz or (20% of calories from pistachios). The pistachio diets contained higher amounts of potassium, healthy fats and protein. All diets were rich in fruit, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains, consistent with current food-based dietary recommendations. Participant demographics and the diet design have been published previously.2

“Daily events, such as work stress, a tight deadline, or public speaking can increase blood pressure, and we know that we can’t avoid all of the stressors in our lives. These results are significant because they show that physiological responses to stress are affected by the foods we eat,” stated Sheila West, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health and the study’s lead author. Dr. West continues, “These changes in blood pressure occurred even though self-reported mood, anxiety, and tension were not changed.”

The largest drop in blood pressure, – 4.8 mm Hg, was associated with eating about one-and-a-half ounces of pistachios a day versus a -1.8 mm Hg on the low-fat diet and, -2.4 mm Hg, three ounces of pistachios per day. The diet containing three ounces of pistachios resulted in a significant decrease in peripheral vascular resistance, a measure of artery stiffness and heart rate versus the control diet. Fifty percent of the pistachios were given salted as a snack and the other half were unsalted and incorporated into recipes.   Interestingly, although high sodium intake is typically associated with high blood pressure, the largest drop in in blood pressure was not associated with the lowest sodium diet. Pistachios do provide potassium (8% Daily Value) and magnesium (8% Daily Value) which are important in maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

“In addition, these results are very exciting because they demonstrate further benefits of pistachios on another risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” added Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, and a lead researcher for the study. Dr. Kris-Etherton adds, “Our previous research suggests including pistachios in a healthy diet lowers LDL cholesterol in a dose-response fashion2 and increases antioxidants in the blood.”

“This research adds to the growing body of literature on the health benefits of pistachios,” added Constance J. Geiger, Ph.D., R.D. who serves as a nutrition research consultant with the American Pistachio Growers. Dr. Geiger continues, “Nuts, such as pistachios, are an important part of a healthy diet.”

For more information and to read the full study, go to

About the Study
The research support was provided by the Western Pistachio Association, now known as the American Pistachio Growers, with partial support from the NIH-supported General Clinical Research Center at Pennsylvania State University. It was first reported on in 2007. It is relevant because lowering blood pressure may reduce the risk for stroke and heart disease.

Pistachios Pack Powerful Nutrition
In recent years the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized that tree nuts, including pistachios, may help reduce the risk of heart disease when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Since then, the American Pistachio Growers have committed to learning more about the nutritional benefits of pistachios and the nuts’ impact on other health issues affecting Americans today.

Pistachio Facts
Pistachios are a naturally cholesterol-free and sodium-free snack that contains just 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 13 grams of fat per serving, the majority of which comes from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. A one-ounce serving of pistachios equals 49 nuts, which is more nuts per serving than any other snack nut. One serving has as much potassium (290mg, 8 percent) as an orange (250 mg, 7 percent) and 3 g of fiber making it a nutritious snack choice or ingredient to incorporate into daily diets.

About American Pistachio Growers
American Pistachio Growers (APG) is a voluntary trade association representing members who are pistachio growers, processors and industry partners in California, Arizona and New Mexico. These states represent 100% of the domestic commercial pistachio production. APG pistachios are the “Official Snack” of both USA men’s and women’s water polo teams and Miss California. For more information, visit


¹West SG, Gebaurer SK, Kay CD, Bagshaw DM, Savastano DM, Diefenbach C, Kris-Etherton P. Diets Containing Pistachios Reduce Systolic Blood Pressure and Peripheral Vascular Responses to Stress in Adults with Dyslipidemia. Hypertension. 2012 Jun 4. [Epub ahead of print] doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.111.182147

2Gebauer SK, West SG, Kay CD, Alaupovic P, Bagshaw D, Kris-Etherton PM. “Effects of pistachios on cardiovascular disease risk factors and potential mechanisms of action: A dose-response study.” Amer J Clin Nutr. 2008;88:651–9.

3Kay CD, Gebauer SK, West SG, Kris-Etherton PM. “Pistachios increase serum antioxidants and lower serum oxidized-LDL in hypercholesterolemic adults.” J Nutr. 2010;140:1093-98.  

Source: American Pistachio Growers


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