Sunflower seeds, pistachios among top nuts for lowering cholesterol

December 07, 2005

Researchers have known for some time that nuts and seeds are rich sources of phytosterols, a class of plant chemicals that have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and improve heart health. In what is believed to be the most comprehensive analysis to date of the phytosterol content of nuts and seeds, chemists at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., analyzed some 27 nut and seed products and found that pistachios and sunflower kernels had the highest levels of phytosterols among the nuts and seeds that are most commonly consumed as snack foods in the United States. Their study appears in the Nov. 30 issue of the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Sesame seed and wheat germ actually ranked highest but are not consumed as frequently as individual foods, the researchers say. Brazil nuts and walnuts ranked the lowest in phytosterols, they say. The chemists caution that phytosterols are not the only food component involved in lowering cholesterol and that other compounds may also play a role. A well-balanced diet and frequent exercise are important keys to good health, they stress.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 158,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.
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The online version of the research paper cited above was initially published Nov. 8 on the journal's Web site. Journalists can arrange access to this site by sending an e-mail to newsroom@acs.org or calling the contact person for this release.

American Chemical Society

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