A study by researchers at Loma Linda University in California found that eating pecans increased levels of gamma tocopherol concentrations in the blood and subsequently reduced a marker of lipid oxidation.
The positive effect of pecans was in part due to the pecan's significant content of vitamin E, according to Ella Haddad of the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University.
"Plant foods, including pecans, are rich sources of phytochemicals that can have a unique effect on the body," says Haddad.
Oxidation of fats in the blood -- a process akin to rusting -- is detrimental to health. When the "bad" cholesterol becomes oxidized, it is more likely to build up and result in arteriosclerosis, according to Haddad.
Pecans, while high in unsaturated fat, are "self-protective" due to their vitamin E content and relatively high content of complex phytonutrients, some of which have been identified as proanthocyanidins, or condensed tannins, which are recognized for their ability to slow the oxidation process.
The findings are published in the journal Nutrition Research.