NEW ORLEANS, APRIL 20 — Six studies presented this week at the 2002 Experimental Biology (EB) conference add provocative details to the growing body of research supporting more reasons to eat almonds.
The studies continue to strengthen what we know about the role of almonds in lowering "bad" cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart disease and in protecting against cell damage. And one study suggests for the first time that we may want to change our mindset about how we think about the fat in almonds—it’s possible that not all of the fat in almonds is absorbed. The studies indicate:
Eating a handful of almonds a day as part of a healthful lifestyle may lower "bad" cholesterol levels and help reduce risk of heart disease. One of the studies presented is a first-of-a-kind analysis of several existing almond studies. The analysis of the body of studies as a whole showed resounding results of almonds’ ability to lower total and LDL or "bad" cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The study consistently showed that people who eat roughly one handful of almonds (1 ounce) a day may significantly reduce total and LDL cholesterol.
"For every 1 percent drop in cholesterol, there is a 2 percent drop in the risk of heart disease," said Dr. Victor Fulgoni, who conducted the analysis. This means that if an individual has a cholesterol level of 200 milligrams per deciliter or higher, which about 102.3 million Americans have—53.8 million adult women and 48.2 million adult men, that he or she may lower their cholesterol level to 190 milligrams per deciliter by eating almonds as part of an overall healthful diet and may lower their risk of developing heart disease by 10 percent.
Another clinical trial conducted at the University of Toronto suggested similar effects from almonds. The study showed that men and women who ate about one ounce or a handful of almonds each day lowered their LDL cholesterol by nearly 3 percent. The study showed an even greater decrease in LDL cholesterol in men and women who ate about 2 handfuls a day, meaning that the effect of almonds at lowering cholesterol does not end at a handful. At the same time, all of the people in the study, those who ate 1 ounce and those who ate more, maintained their weight the entire time.
Great things can come in small packages. A study from Tufts University suggested that the nutrients found in almonds and in their skin, together, may offer a significantly higher amount of protection than when those nutrients are isolated from each other. Another study, from the University of California, Davis, suggested there are antioxidant compounds in almond skin — in addition to its naturally occurring form of vitamin E — that may provide positive health effects when eaten with the meat of the almond.
We may be getting less fat from almonds than we thought. For those who are worried about eating almonds because of the fat they contain, a study from King’s College in London was among the most intriguing research. The study showed that the cell walls of almonds may play a role in the body’s absorption of the fat in almonds. When eating almonds, chewing only disrupted some of the cell walls, leaving some of the almond intact. "This is exciting new research," commented Dr. Karen Lapsley. "Because some of the almond remained intact, not all of the fat was released for digestion. This suggests that almonds may be a lower calorie food than suspected because not all of the calories from fat are absorbed." Leaving us with the question…are we actually eating fewer calories than are shown on the nutrition facts label for almonds?
The Almond Board of California administers a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture. Established in 1950, the Board’s charge is to promote the best quality almonds, California’s largest tree nut crop. For more information on the Almond Board of California or almonds, visit www.AlmondsAreIn.com.
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