Pistachio consumption is associated with reductions in serum cholesterol and oxidative stress due to their constituents of unsaturated fats, phytosterols, fiber, and antioxidants. Bleaching has been applied to whiten nut shells for antifungal and cosmetic purposes. However, the impact of bleaching on nutritional quality and safety of pistachios remains to be examined. In this study, we investigated whether bleaching would increase malondialdehyde (MDA) or 7-keto-sitosterol and decrease phytosterols in pistachio oil, as well as cause cytotoxicity of modeled Hepa1c1c7 cells. Bleaching increased MDA by more than 32% from 0.23 µg/g in raw oil, with the largest increase noted with the bleach containing H2O2 and Fe2+ (P ≤ 0.05). Bleached pistachio oil had larger than 12.6% decrease in β-sitosterol and total phytosterols as compared to the raw oil (P ≤ 0.05). Bleaching with Fe2+ significantly increase 7-keto-sitosterol compared to bleaching alone. Hepatic cell viability was decreased the most by the oil of the pistachios treated with bleach containing Fe2+ (P ≤ 0.05), and lactate dehydrogenase activity in medium was elevated by >18-folds (P ≤ 0.05). Compared to natural pistachios, the bleaching treatment had detrimental effects on nutritional quality and expected health benefits of pistachios by increasing lipid peroxidation, decreasing phytosterol content, and causing cytotoxicity.
Practical applications: Bleaching has been applied to whiten the nut shell for antifungal and cosmetic purposes. However, the results of this study indicate that bleaching treatment has a detrimental impact on nutritional quality and expected health benefits of pistachios. Particularly, treatment with a bleach formula with hydrogen peroxide and transit metals increases formation of lipid peroxidation products and decreases phytosterol content. The resulting pistachio oil causes cell toxicity. Thus, bleaching practice for whitening pistachios is strongly discouraged.