The review, entitled, Effects of almond consumption on the reduction of LDL-cholesterol: a discussion of potential mechanisms and future research directions and published in Nutrition Reviews®, was conducted by Claire E. Berryman, BS, along with Amy Griel Preston, PhD, RD, Wahida Karmally, DrPH, RD, CDE, Richard J. Deckelbaum, MD and Penny M. Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD. In 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a qualified health claim stating that scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. The intent of the review was to compile the years of research on almonds' cardioprotective benefits in addition to research on the nutrients found in almonds, and to explore the reasons why including almonds in the diet may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Through a review of research related to the key nutrients found in almonds, potential mechanisms and future directions for almond research were explored.
"This review takes a unique perspective on almonds as a food that may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, discussing important almond nutrients and their potential mechanistic role in promoting heart health," Berryman says. "The message that almonds, in and of themselves, are a heart-healthy snack should be emphasized to consumers. Moreover, when almonds are incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet, the benefits are even greater."
The recently published review cites research that supports the potential heart health benefits of plant-based protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats. Whether these nutrients contribute to the heart health benefits of almonds is not known, and further research is warranted. The review concludes that adding whole natural almonds to one's daily diet may contribute to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Among the findings are the following key statistics:
- The fatty acid profile of almonds, which is composed of 91 - 94% unsaturated fatty acids, may contribute to almonds' ability to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.4-8
- Dietary fiber is part of the National Cholesterol Education Program's recommendation for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.9
- Almonds have the most fiber (3.5 g) per serving of any tree nut, and may help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. In fact, a one ounce serving of almonds -- about a handful -- provides more than 10% of the recommended daily serving of fiber.10-12
- The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) report states that only 7 percent of Americans consume the recommended levels of Vitamin E. One ounce of almonds provides nearly half (7.4 mg) of the recommended daily allowance (15 mg) of Vitamin E, which has antioxidant effects, such as preventing damage from free radicals.12,13,14
- Studies suggest that partially replacing carbohydrates with protein in the diet may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.15,16
- A handful of almonds -- about one ounce -- contains 6 grams of protein.12
Additionally, a handful of almonds is an excellent source of magnesium and manganese and contains copper (0.3 mg) and calcium (75 mg).
1. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture; 2010.
2. World Health Organization. Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: Pocket Guidelines for Assessment and Management of Cardiovascular Risk.
3. Good news about fat. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that the majority of your fat intake be unsaturated. One serving of almonds (28g) has 13 g of fat and only 1 g of saturated fat.
4. Kris-Etherton P, Krummel D, Russell M, et al. The effect of diet on plasma lipids, lipoproteins, and coronary heart disease. J Am Diet Assoc. 1988;88(11):1373-1400.
5. Mustad VA, Etherton TD, Cooper AD, et al. Reducing saturated fat intake is associated with increased levels of LDL receptors on mononuclear cells in healthy men and women. J. Lipid Res. March 1, 1997 1997;38(3):459-468.
6. Berglund L, Lefevre M, Ginsberg HN, et al. Comparison of monounsaturated fat with carbohydrates as a replacement for saturated fat in subjects with a high metabolic risk profile: studies in the fasting and postprandial states. Am J Clin Nutr. December 1, 2007 2007;86(6):1611-1620.
7. Egert S, Kratz M, Kannenberg F, Fobker M, Wahrburg U. Effects of high-fat and low-fat diets rich in monounsaturated fatty acids on serum lipids, LDL size and indices of lipid peroxidation in healthy non-obese men and women when consumed under controlled conditions. European Journal of Nutrition.
8. Sathe SK, Seeram NP, Kshirsagar HH, Heber D, Lapsley KA. Fatty Acid Composition of California Grown Almonds. Journal of Food Science. 2008;73(9):C607-C614.
9. National Cholesterol Education Program. Executive summary of the Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). JAMA. 2001;285:2486-2497.
10. Calpe-Berdiel L, Escolà-Gil JC, Blanco-Vaca F. New insights into the molecular actions of plant sterols and stanols in cholesterol metabolism. Atherosclerosis. 2009;203(1):18-31.
11. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture; 2010.
12. Food Processor SQL [computer program]. Version 10.5.0. Salem, Oregon; 2008.
13. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids: National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. ; 2000.
14. Landrier J-F, Gouranton E, Reboul E, et al. Vitamin E decreases endogenous cholesterol synthesis and apo-AI-mediated cholesterol secretion in Caco-2 cells. J Nutr Biochem.In Press, Corrected Proof.
15. Wolfe BM, Giovannetti PM. Short-term effects of substituting protein for carbohydrate in the diets of moderately hypercholesterolemic human subjects. Metabolism. 1991;40(4):338-343.
16. Appel LJ, Sacks FM, Carey VJ, et al. Effects of Protein, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate Intake on Blood Pressure and Serum Lipids: Results of the OmniHeart Randomized
Almond Board of California