Almonds examined for effects on diet quality, appetite, adiposity and cardiovascular disease risk factors
Six new almond-related research studies were presented in San Diego at the American Society of Nutrition (ASN)'s Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting, held in conjunction with Experimental Biology 2014 (EB). The conference attracts an international audience of approximately 13,000 leading scientists specializing in various health disciplines.
The science presented will reveal new insights on the effects of almond consumption on overall diet quality and health status, abdominal adiposity, measures of appetite and satiety, and cardiovascular risk factors.
"Presenting new research to this audience of scientists and health professionals is critical to turning the findings into practical application and recommendations, said Dr. Karen Lapsley, Chief Science Officer for the Almond Board of California. "These results help to advance the evolution of our understanding of almonds' beneficial effects as part of a healthy diet." In a satellite session1 , researchers explored the question, "Are Almonds an Optimal Snack?" a hot topic given that snacking has become a way of life for most Americans. In fact, 97% of Americans report eating at least one snack a day, with 40% consuming three to four snacks per day2 , so understanding and education about smart snacking is increasingly important.
- Dr. Carol O'Neil of Louisiana State University presented a new analysis of 24,808 adults 19 and older, using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 2000-2010 showing that almond consumers (n=395; defined as those who reported eating any amount of almonds or almond butter in the previous 24 hours) had increased nutrient intake, improved overall dietary quality and better physiological status compared with non-almond consumers3 . This is a cross-sectional study; therefore, the data cannot be used to draw causal relationships, but suggests an association between almond consumption and positive health status.
- Many commonly consumed snack foods are nutrient-poor and elicit weak dietary compensation. Dr. Richard Mattes from Purdue University examined the effects of snacking on nutrient-rich almonds in 137 adult participants at risk for Type II diabetes4. Consuming 1.5 ounces of dry-roasted, lightly salted almonds daily helped curb participants' appetites and moderate blood glucose concentrations, while significantly improving vitamin E and monounsaturated fat intake. After a month of snacking on 250 calories from almonds daily, participants did not gain weight. While the study was only four weeks long, it suggests that snacking on almonds could be a weight-wise strategy.
- Dr. Penny-Kris Etherton from Pennsylvania State University shared results from a new randomized, controlled clinical study examining the effects of consuming 1.5 ounces of almonds vs. a calorie-matched, high carbohydrate snack on body weight in 52 adults with elevated LDL cholesterol5. Total body weight did not differ between the two treatments, but the almond diet reduced overall abdominal mass, abdominal fat mass, and waist circumference compared to the high-carbohydrate snack. Although the study was just six weeks long, preliminary results suggest that snacking on almonds may help decrease abdominal fat, an important risk factor for metabolic syndrome.
Additional research examining the relationship between almond consumption and cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors was showcased in a number of poster presentations at the conference:
- A randomized, parallel-arm controlled study investigated the effects of adding 1.5 ounces of almonds daily to the diets of adult subjects with poorly controlled type II diabetes on C-reactive protein - without any dietary advice provided6 .
- Another crossover, randomized clinical trial examined the metabolic response of 2 ounces of almonds compared to dairy fat in isocaloric and equal macronutrient meals consumed by overweight/obese pregnant women. Preliminary results suggest that almonds may help improve satiety, reduce appetite, and may help promote healthy weight gain during pregnancy, although further research is needed7.
The body of evidence that was presented suggests snacking can be a weight-wise strategy, depending upon the foods consumed. The nutrient profile of almonds - low on the glycemic index and providing a powerful nutrient package including hunger-fighting protein (6 g/oz), filling dietary fiber (4 g/oz), "good" monounsaturated fats (13 g/oz) (8), and important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E (7.4 mg/oz), magnesium (200 mg/oz) and potassium (77 mg/oz), makes them a satisfying, heart-smart8 snack choice that can help support a healthy weight.
The research presented reflects the Almond Board of California's strong commitment to the advancement of nutrition science. Lapsley said, "To date, the California almond industry has invested over $15 million in nutrition research that has resulted in more than 100 papers published by internationally recognized scientists in peer review journals. The Almond Board of California is proud to present science at the elite level of Experimental Biology."