"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, a professor of biobehavioral health and nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University.

Although nuts are high in fat, they contain good fats, fibre, 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," West added.

During the investigation on patients with type 2 diabetes about the effects of pistachios, researchers randomised patients to one of two test diets. Test diets included a standard heart healthy diet 27 percent fat and seven percent saturated fat  and a diet containing two servings per day of pistachios about 3 ounces or 20 percent of calories from pistachio nuts.

The typical research participant consumed about 150 pistachio nuts per day.The pistachio diet contained 33 percent fat and 7 percent saturated fat.

"After the pistachio diet, blood vessels remained more relaxed and open during the stress tests," West said.

They found that systolic blood pressure during sleep was particularly affected by pistachios."Average sleep blood pressure was reduced by about four points and this would be expected to lower workload on the heart," West noted.

The researchers also recorded improvements in heart rate variability, a measure of how well the nervous system controls heart function.The results appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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