Strengthened ties between California’s pistachio industry and Fresno State research programs have prompted a new line of research focused on improving human health. Food Science and Nutrition Professor Lisa Herzig is seeking to build on previous work showing the value of nuts in human diets.

She recently completed a study measuring the effects of pistachios on reducing health risk factors of individuals prone to certain diseases. More research is to come.

“In the United States alone, an estimated 47 million people are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome (METs), a multi-factorial risk factor for heart disease and diabetes,” Herzig said. Diet plays a key role in development of METs and the positive effects of walnuts, cashews and almonds on METs risk have been studied. But insufficient research is available in relationship to the effects of pistachios on METs risk factors, Herzig said.

Pistachio research at Fresno State already is being conducted by fellow Food Science and Nutrition Professor Gour Choudhury, Herzig noted. Choudhury’s work, supported by the Western Pistachio Association, is focused on developing value-added pistachio products using extrusion technology.

Through those established ties, Herzig gained association support for her study, which was to determine the effects of pistachios as a source of calories and nutrition in place of other commonly-eaten foods.

The eight-week study, in which Herzig was assisted by Fresno State students, provided some further hypotheses to be explored. She said she will explore further research on the value of pistachios in the diet as a way to improve human health. She also has plans to bring additional students in on childhood obesity prevention projects that are being developed.

The pistachio study was partially funded by the California State University’s Agricultural Research Institute.

For more information on diet-related research and programs, contact Herzig at lherzig@csufresno.edu.