12 January - 20 June 2016

Beneficial effects of almonds in the diet

16 July 14

Researchers from Aston University, Birmingham, UK have found that an almond enriched diet can reduce blood pressure (BP) and improve vascular function. The short term research project led by Professor Helen Griffiths studied the effect of the diet on male subjects in four categories: (1) healthy men aged 55 years and older, (2) healthy men 18 – 35 years old, (3) men aged 18-35 years old at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and (4) a control group of 18 years of age and above which were randomly picked from the above groups.

Participants consumed 50g/day of almonds for 4 weeks, with the following results:

  • Significant reduction of diastolic BP in the healthy middle aged and healthy young men’s group (no change in groups 3 and 4). Systolic BP decreased significantly in all groups, except for group 4 which showed no change.
  • A significant increase in flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) in groups 2 and 3 and a trend of increase in older adults. A reduction was noted in group 4.

The dietary intervention did not have any significant effect on the total-, HDL-, and LDL- cholesterols nor on triacylglycerols.

Almonds’ positive impact on health stems from the nutrients they provide. For example it has been suggested that α-tocopherol from almonds acts hermetically in the body by either promoting autophagic clearance of intracellular fibrotic proteins, or in a concerted fashion with other nutrients such as monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) to improve cardiovascular (CV) function. The MUFA which are found in almonds have an anti-inflammatory effect. Another suggested mechanism is the increased amount of arginine present in the body due to almonds in the diet. This is a rate limiting substrate for endothelial nitric oxide synthesis and, combined with vitamin E (a free radical scavenger), it increases the bioavailability of nitric oxide and hence FMD.

Almonds as a dietary component provide 14mg α-tocopherol per 50g and the MUFA, oleic acid, is the major fatty acid constituent, exceeding 50% of the almond mass. 50g almonds provide an extra 300 kcal to the dietary intake of the individual; however, in this study there was no significant change observed in the BMI of the subjects. This is potentially due to nuts’ well-known effect of increasing satiety, which may have resulted in reduced calorie intake from non-almond foods.

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