Life Extension Magazine®

Pecans that are high in in tocopherols and improve lipids


The abundant monounsaturated fatty acids and tocopherols in pecans can help improve lipid profiles and lower the risk of gallstones, heart disease, insulin resistance, and diabetes.

Scientifically reviewed by: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N, in March 2021. Written by: Garry Messick.

The pecan—actually a seed rather than a nut—is a popular snack, often used as an ingredient in desserts such as praline candy and pecan pie. But leave those unhealthy, sugary treats aside and the unadorned pecan stands on its own as a food with a number of notable health benefits.

What you need to know

From lowering cholesterol, helping prevent gallstones, inhibiting low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation, helping prevent diabetes and improving insulin sensitivity, pecans make an excellent addition to any healthful diet.


There’s evidence pecans, with their monounsaturated fatty acids, can beneficially affect lipid profiles by lowering triglycerides and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol.1


Research has found a link between frequent nut consumption (including pecans) and lower risk of gallstones in men.2 Further research is needed to understand the mechanism behind this effect, although it may have something to do with the fact that most gallstones in Western countries are cholesterol stones, and pecans and other nuts have a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol.

Cardiovascular Disease

Pecans may help protect against heart disease due to their richness in compounds such as tocopherols, which help inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol.3 Elevated levels of oxidized LDL are associated with atherosclerosis.


A study found that consumption of pecans and other nuts may help reduce the risk of type II diabetes in women.4 The study authors suggested substituting nuts for refined grains or red meats as a healthy way to add them to one’s diet without raising one’s overall caloric intake.

Cardiometabolic Risk

A randomized, controlled feeding trial of overweight adults found that a diet rich in pecans improved serum insulin, insulin resistance, and beta cell function compared to a diet that was similar in fat and fiber content but did not include the tasty nuts.5


  1. J Nutr. 2001;131(9):2275-9.
  2. Am J Epidemiol. 2004;160(10):961-8.
  3. J Nutr. 2011;141(1):56-62.
  4. Jama. 2002;288(20):2554-60.
  5. Nutrients. 2018;10(3).