'Staching stress

New research suggests pistachios pack vascular bennies for people with Type 2 diabetes.

Pistachios may help diabetics respond to daily stress. Unfortunately, popping a few nuts probably won’t make sitting in traffic seem like chilling at the seashore. The difference occurs in blood vessels.

A new study from Penn State suggests that for people with Type 2 diabetes, eating pistachios may reduce the body’s response to everyday life. The results were reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association and noted on sciencedaily.com.

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

(In fact, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests that the fat in pistachios may not be completely absorbed by the body.)

The Penn State researchers conducted a randomized, crossover study among people with Type 2 diabetes who were otherwise healthy. All meals were provided and contained the same number of calories. Subjects spent two weeks eating a standard heart-healthy diet with 36 percent fat and 12 percent saturated fat. Then subjects were placed randomly in either a test group, who had about 150 pistachios included in their diet each day, or a control group, who did not.

At the end of each four-week diet, the researchers measured blood pressure and total peripheral vascular resistance at rest and during two stress tests -- a cold water challenge and a confusing mental arithmetic test.

The researchers found that the pistachio diet lowered vascular constriction during stress. When arteries are dilated, the load on the heart is reduced. "After the pistachio diet, blood vessels remained more relaxed and open during the stress tests," West said.

"If sustained with longer term treatment, 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 said.

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