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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]