Other health benefits

This section briefly summarizes in less technical terms the results of scientific research related to pistachio nuts. Full details can be found in the published article. The studies are listed in chronological order.

Erectile function

Pistachios and penis erectile function in married men
After eating 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of pistachios daily for 3 weeks, 17 men between the ages of 38 and 59 years with erectile dysfunction saw improvement in measures of erectile function. Study participants saw a significant improvement on International Index of Erectile Function scores, which measure such things as orgasmic function, sexual desire and sexual intercourse satisfaction. There was also improvement in penile ultrasound measures, but the difference was not statistically significant. The authors speculate that several attributes of pistachios may have contributed to the results, including their content of protein, fiber, antioxidants and fats.
Aldemir M, Okulu E, Neşelioğlu S, Erel O, Kayıgil O, 2011. Pistachio diet improves erectile function parameters and serum lipid profiles in patients with erectile dysfunction. Int J Impot Res. 23(1):32-8
Further studies are needed with increased number of patients and longer follow-up to evaluate the relationship between pistachios and erectile dysfunction

Antioxidants and other biologically active compounds in pistachios

Pistachios contain several antioxidants
Pistachios were tested to determine their content of antioxidants, potential health promoting chemicals found naturally in plant foods. Numerous antioxidants were found. The authors speculate that eating pistachios daily may protect against cancer, inflammatory diseases (such as arthritis) and heart disease.
Tomaino A, Martorana M, Arcoraci T, Monteleone D, Giovinazzo C, Saija A. 2010. Antioxidant activity and phenolic profile of pistachio (Pistacia vera L., variety Bronte) seeds and skins. Biochimie. Sep;92(9):1115-22.

Pistachios improved blood antioxidant levels
Ten men and 18 women between the ages of 35 and 61 years with high cholesterol levels ate either a low-fat diet with no pistachios or one serving per day or two servings per day of pistachios for 4 weeks. Those eating pistachios had higher blood levels of antioxidants, which may have helped their levels of 'bad' (LDL) cholesterol. The authors suggest that pistachios can be an important part of a heart-healthy diet because of their antioxidant compounds.
Kay CD, Gebauer SK, West SG, Kris-Etherton PM. 2010. Pistachios increase serum antioxidants and lower serum oxidized-LDL in hypercholesterolemic adults J Nutr. Jun;140(6):1093-8.

Nuts, including pistachios, contain many compounds that promote health
Nuts, including pistachios, have many plant nutrients, called phytochemicals, which contribute to their health properties. These include many of the same antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, such as carotenoids and polyphenols. Pistachios contain resveratrol, the same compound believed to provide the health benefits of wine. Of the tree nuts, pistachios have the highest content of a type of vitamin E called gamma tocopherol, as well as the highest amount of lignans. The authors conclude that nuts have many ways to contribute health benefits.
Bolling BW, McKay DL, Blumberg JB. 2010. The phytochemical composition and antioxidant actions of tree nuts. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 19(1):117-23.

Pistachios contain some of the highest amounts of important plant nutrients
Tree nuts, including pistachios, contain numerous types of antioxidants. When the authors compared various tree nuts, they found that pistachios had some of the highest amounts of vitamin A, isoflavones, lignans and phytoestrogens.
Alasalvar C and Shahidi F. 2009. Natural antioxidants in tree nuts. Eur. J. Lipid Sci. Technol., 111, 1056–1062.

Pistachios have many heart-healthy compounds
Nuts, including pistachios, are known to support heart health. This laboratory study determined the compounds in nuts that might be contributing to heart health. Pistachios had a higher percentage of monounsaturated fats than cashews, pecans, pine and Brazil nuts. Pistachios also contained the highest amount of gamma-tocopherol (a type of vitamin E), as well as the highest amount of beta-sitersterol, a plant sterol, compared to those other nuts. The researchers conclude that nuts contain many beneficial attributes and could be used in heart-healthy diets in place of other high-calorie snacks.
Ryan E, Galvin K, O'Connor TP, Maguire AR, O'Brien NM. 2006. Fatty acid profile, tocopherol, squalene and phytosterol content of brazil, pecan, pine, pistachio and cashew nuts. Int J Food Sci Nutr. May-Jun;57(3-4):219-28.

Inflammation

Pistachios contain the anti-inflammatory compound proanthocyanidins
In laboratory cell cultures, pistachios were tested to determine if they contained anti-inflammatory compounds. Inflammation is a normal body response to injury, but an inappropriate inflammation response in the body over time has been implicated as contributing to such diseases as heart disease and diabetes. Pistachios had the ability to reduce several indicators of inflammation. The authors believe that this was due to the proanthocyanidins in pistachios.
Gentile C, Allegra M, Angileri F, Pintaudi AM, Livrea MA, Tesoriere L. 2011. Polymeric proanthocyanidins from Sicilian pistachio (Pistacia vera L.) nut extract inhibit lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammatory response in RAW 264.7 cells. Eur J Nutr. Jul 7

Pistachios have potential anti-inflammatory properties
Inflammation is a normal body response to injury, but an inappropriate inflammation response in the body over time has been implicated as contributing to such diseases as heart disease and diabetes. Pistachio oil was tested in cell cultures to determine its effect on inflammation. Pistachio oil significantly moderated the genes involved in inflammatory responses. The authors speculate that pistachio oil, which is found in pistachio nuts, may provide benefits for heart health via anti-inflammatory properties.
Zhang J, Kris-Etherton PM, Thompson JT, Vanden Heuvel JP. 2010. Effect of pistachio oil on gene expression of IFN-induced protein with tetratricopeptide repeats 2: A biomarker of inflammatory response. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. May;54 Suppl 1:S83-92.

To learn more about the health benefits of nuts in general, visit nuthealth.org.