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    More Good News About Almonds and Heart Health

    Results of new study add to the evidence

    By Diane Quagliani

    Retail dietitians who educate shoppers about heart health can continue to feel good about recommending almonds, based on the results of a new study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science. The study found that eating almonds results in significant reductions in total cholesterol, "bad" LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, while having no significant impact on "good" HDL cholesterol levels. The results add to the weight of evidence that supports the consumption of almonds as part of a healthy diet to help maintain healthy blood lipid levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

    Additional findings from sub-group analyses showed that blood lipid levels were most substantially improved in the studies in which the dose of almonds was at least 45 g/day (~1.5 oz/day) and in which the studied populations had elevated blood lipid levels at baseline. The study, conducted by Dr. Kathy Musa-Veloso and colleagues, was funded by the Almond Board of California and independently evaluated in a peer-reviewed journal.

    The study, which was a systematic review and meta-analysis, included 18 published randomized controlled trials and a total of 837 participants. When data from all of the studies were pooled, the reduction in total cholesterol was 5.92 mg/dL. When the meta-analysis was restricted to those studies where the amount of almonds consumed was at least 45 g/day (~1.5 oz/day), the reduction in total cholesterol was 8.20 mg/dL. These data suggest that the effects of almonds on total cholesterol are dose-dependent, with a larger almond intake resulting in a greater reduction in total cholesterol. When the meta-analysis was based on studies in which the subjects had elevated total cholesterol levels (at baseline), the reduction in total cholesterol was 10.48 mg/dL, suggesting that the effects of almonds on total cholesterol levels are most impactful in these individuals.

    A similar pattern was observed for LDL-cholesterol. Specifically, when data from all of the studies were pooled, the reduction was 4.80 mg/dL. The LDL-cholesterol reductions were 5.10 mg/dL and 6.11 mg/dL when the meta-analysis was restricted to those studies in which at least 45 g (~1.5 oz) of almonds were consumed per day and in which the subjects had elevated LDL-cholesterol levels at baseline, respectively.

    The researchers noted that although the mechanism for cholesterol reduction is not fully understood, the composition of almonds - which includes a favorable fatty acid profile (high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats and low in saturated fats), nutrient composition (containing 6 grams of plant protein and 4 grams of dietary fiber per ounce (28 grams), plus other key constituents like flavonoids and sterols) - may all play a role in their favorable effects on blood lipids. 

    "These results strengthen decades of research about how the regular consumption of almonds can favorably impact blood lipid levels and have a positive effect on heart health," commented Dr. Kathy Musa-Veloso, lead author of the systematic review and meta-analysis.  "The consumption of almonds as part of a healthy diet should be encouraged in order to improve blood lipid levels and reduce the risk of heart disease."

    Study Cited: Musa-Veloso K, Paulionis L, Poon T, Lee HL. The effects of almond consumption on fasting blood lipid levels: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.  Journal of Nutritional Science 2016; 5(e34):1-15. [NC1] 

     

    By Diane Quagliani
    • About Diane Quagliani Registered dietitian Diane Quagliani specializes in nutrition communications for consumer and health professional audiences. She has assisted national retailers and CPGs with nutrition strategy, web content development, trade show exhibiting and creation and implementation of shelf tag programs. She’s written extensively for major consumer publications including Better Homes and Gardens, the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

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