Report: Forbes: 11.01.2015.
Snacking on almonds may possibly be one of the best choices you can make.
According to the results of a new study, choosing almonds as opposed to carbs like white bread or muffins, may reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing belly fat, the dangerous type of fat that can encircle our organs. Central abdominal fat is a component of the metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for developing premature coronary artery disease.
As cardiovascular disease represents a major ongoing health problem with significant morbidity and mortality, diets that are heart healthy which include specific nuts (almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts) play a major role in treating and preventing the progression of heart disease, even in individuals on cholesterol lowering medications.
Findings of the study were published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association .
According to the study, consuming 1.5 ounces of almonds daily–as opposed to a high carbohydrate muffin–along with a heart-healthy diet, helped to improve cholesterol and lipid profiles among the research participants.
A key finding of the study was that eating almonds helped to reduce both LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) as well as total cholesterol. Perhaps a more striking finding was that along with an improved lipid profile, central adiposity (belly fat) was also reduced. An excess of belly fat has been established as a risk factor for premature heart disease.
In a 12 week randomized, controlled trial, researchers from Penn State University evaluated 52 middle-aged, obese adults with elevated LDL as well as total cholesterol, who were otherwise in good condition. All research subjects consumed the same heart-healthy diet for 6 weeks. They were then divided into 2 groups: one group consumed 1.5 ounces or 42 grams of whole natural almonds, while the other group consumed a banana muffin which constituted the same number of calories.
At the end of 6 weeks, those participants who ate a diet containing almonds–as opposed to a muffin as a snack—had lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol and VLDL- C (remnant lipoproteins). The diet containing the muffin snack also had a negative effect: it reduced the HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) to a greater degree than the diet containing almonds.
Compared to those on the diet containing the muffin snack, those participants on the diet with the almond snack also had a significantly reduced central abdominal fat mass, leg fat mass and waist circumference. Of note, there were no differences between subjects with regard to total fat mass and body weight for controls.
Results from this study demonstrate that choosing almonds, a healthy low carbohydrate snack loaded with protein and fiber–as opposed to a high carbohydrate snack with sugar–can help to improve cardiovascular health by reducing risk factors for heart disease. The novel finding is that this snack also helped to reduce belly fat.
Selecting almonds is an easy way to reduce risk for developing metabolic syndrome, a prime risk factor for developing early coronary artery disease. Nuts such as almonds also are helpful for those with diabetes, helping to stabilize blood sugar levels.
This study provides ongoing evidence for almonds as a heart-healthy food, already known to reduce cholesterol levels to maintain cardiovascular health.
It also adds new evidence that consistently eating a heart healthy snack such as almonds- compared to a high carbohydrate muffin snack—may also lead to loss of central abdominal fat, reflecting a change in body composition.
A typical serving size of almonds is generally one ounce, or 20-24 whole almonds. This serving size contains about 163 calories and 14 grams of fat, primarily healthy monounsaturated fat along with omega-3 fatty acids. Along with this, there are 3.5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of fat. Those on low carb diets may find the 6 grams of carbohydrates helpful.
The snack serving size described in the study was slightly greater, approximately 30-35 almonds.