A preliminary 16-person study suggests that eating pistachios may help alter levels of potentially beneficial bacteria in the gut, a finding that holds promise for supporting digestive health. The research, presented as an abstract this week at the Experimental Biology conference, is the first study of pistachios and almonds and their modulating role on the gut microbiota composition.
"Gut microbiota, or the microbial environment in the gastrointestinal tract, provides important functions to the human host," said Volker Mai, PhD, lead study author and assistant professor at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "Modifying microbiota towards a 'beneficial' composition is a promising approach for supporting intestinal health, with potential effects on overall health, and it appears that pistachios may play a role in this modification."
Pistachios Deliver Essential Compounds to the Gut
Pistachios appear to have prebiotic characteristics; they contain non-digestible food components such as dietary fiber, which remain in the gut and serve as food for naturally occurring bacteria. They also contain phytochemicals that have the potential to modify microbiota composition. Foods with prebiotic properties may enhance the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
To examine this relationship between prebiotics found in pistachios and the gut, researchers conducted a feeding study at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland. Sixteen healthy individuals were randomly assigned to eat an American-style, pre-planned diet that included either 0 ounces, 1.5 ounces or 3 ounces of pistachios or almonds per day. Each participant's diet was calorie-controlled to ensure they neither gained nor lost weight during the intervention. Multiple stool samples were collected throughout the study and analyzed for bacterial community composition. The researchers also quantified the amounts of Lactic Acid Bacteria and Bifidobacteria in the stool, two groups of live microorganisms that reside in the digestive tract and help break down food substances.