Effects of daily almond consumption on cardiometabolic risk

Cardiovascular-related diseases are one of the biggest perils of modern day society. The main contributor for this situation is the high cholesterol levels attributed to high fat diets. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that plays a vital role in hormone, bile, Vitamin D production and helps maintain membrane integrity of the cells. Our body makes all the cholesterol it needs, with some coming from our diet too.

When the body has excess cholesterol, it stores them in various parts of our body. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’) cholesterol can join with fats and other substances to build up in the inner walls of our arteries forming plaques, thereby reducing blood flow. Plaque sometimes break open and form blood clots. Stroke is caused by the blood clot that is formed when there is a block in the artery leading to the brain. If the clot blocks an artery to the heart, it causes heart attack. High-density lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good’) on the other hand, carries harmful cholesterol away from the arteries and protects us.

The good news is, there is greater awareness these days about cardio-metabolic diseases and its risk factors. One of the key ways to prevent the onset of cardio-metabolic diseases is to manage the cholesterol levels in our body. This can be achieved by diet which includes food items that are not high in fat content or which decreases cholesterol level, like almonds that have been suggested to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Almonds have become integrated in our food items like cereals, biscuits and even oil. Many of us do take almonds in the various forms mentioned above. However, how many of us take almonds as part of our daily food intake? Here is a study to show why it may be a good idea to consume almonds on a regular basis.

A recent study by researchers at the Pennsylvania State University aimed to investigate the effects of daily almond consumption on cardio-metabolic risk, especially abdominal adiposity in healthy individuals with elevated LDL-cholesterol. Many studies have shown that almond consumption beneficially affects lipids and lipoproteins. However, almonds have not yet been evaluated in a controlled-feeding setting using a single, calorie-matched food substitution to gauge their specific effects on cardiometabolic risk factors.

This was a two-period (six weeks per period) randomized, controlled-feeding study of 48 adult volunteers with elevated LDL-C levels. In diet period 1, there was cholesterol lowering diet together with raw almonds. In diet period 2, there was a similar diet but with an isocaloric muffin substitution instead of the almonds and this was treated as the control of the experiment. The two diet plans had similar cholesterol and saturated fat levels.

Analysis of the results showed that almonds reduced non-HDL-C, LDL-C, and central adiposity. These are important risk factors for cardio-metabolic dysfunction. A reduced LDL-C is a highlight here as LDL-C contributes to plaque formation. Additionally, the control diet decreased HDL-C. (For more information on cholesterol, click here)

Almond consumption also reduced abdominal fat and leg fat. But, results showed no differences in total body weight. The research concluded that consuming Almonds (1.5 oz.), as a substitution for a high carbohydrate-snack maybe a good dietary strategy to prevent the onset of cardio-metabolic diseases in healthy individuals.

For more interactive learning about cholesterol, click here.

For the full article: Journal of the American Heart Association

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