HEALTH BENEFITS

Health Benefits of a Handful
Cholesterol
Diabetes
Cancer Prevention
Cardiovascular Disease
Weight Management
health_thumb1.jpg Win the Weight War
health_thumb2.jpg More Vitamins and Minerals
health_thumb3.jpg Multi Vitamins
health_thumb4.jpg Vitamin E

HEALTH BENEFITS OF A HANDFUL

Almonds are one of the best food sources of Vitamin E    

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. This means that it protects our cells from damage helping to maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels. Vitamin E also works best in foods that contain some good dietary fat, like almonds, to help its absorption.

There are several different forms of Vitamin E, but one in particular, called alpha-tocopherol, can meet all the body’s Vitamin E requirements on its own. And guess what? Almonds are one of the best food sources of alpha-tocopherol.

Just a small handful of almonds (30g) provides over half your daily vitamin E requirements. Almonds really are a natural Vitamin E powerhouse!

Almonds have a host of other nutritious attributes           

They also contain:

  • Minerals like potassium for active muscles and nerves
  • Magnesium which assists enzyme function and metabolism
  • Riboflavin for growth and healthy red blood cells
  • Phosphorous to help build strong bones and teeth
  • Arginine to promote healthy blood flow
  • Protein and fibre which can help satisfy hunger for longer

Almonds are a filling snack!

Almonds are high in protein and are a source of dietary fibre. The combination of protein and dietary fibre, like that found in almonds, can help keep you feeling fuller for longer. That’s good news for people wanting to avoid those afternoon hunger pangs. Almonds can also help us to get all the essential fats our bodies need everyday.

Australian almonds are:

  • High in protein
  • High in monounsaturated fat
  • Naturally cholesterol free
  • Naturally low in sugars
  • Like all nuts, almonds are a source of dietary fibre
  • Naturally low in sodium when fresh
  • Source of/contains potassium
  • Good source of magnesium
  • Source of/contains phosphorous
  • Good source of riboflavin
  • Good source of Vitamin E
  • One serving provides over half your daily Vitamin E requirements

Fresh Almonds Nutrition Information

  Average Quantity
Per Serving (30g)
Average Quantity
Per 100g
Energy 758kJ 2525kJ
Protein 6.0g 20.0g
Arginine 0.8mg* 2.5g*
Fat, total 16.6g 55.2g
Saturated fat 1.1g 3.6g
Monounsaturated fat 10.8g 36.0g
Polyunsaturated fat 3.9g 13.1g
Trans fat 0.0g 0.0g
Cholesterol 0.0mg 0.0mg
Carbohydrate, total 1.3g 4.4g
Sugars 1.3g 4.4g
Dietary fibre 2.6g 8.8g
Sodium 1.5mg 5.0mg
Potassium 207mg 690mg
Magnesium 78mg 260mg
Phosphorous 143mg 475mg
Riboflavin 0.4mg 1.2mg
Vitamin E 7.8mg* 25.9mg*
Phytosterols 6.0mg* 120mg*

 

Source – Almond Board of Australia

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CHOLESTEROL

In a clinical trial, researchers found that women and men who ate about one ounce (about a handful or 23 kernels) of almonds each day lowered their LDL cholesterol by 4.4 percent from baseline. The study showed an even greater decrease of 9.4 percent in LDL cholesterol in those who ate about two handfuls of almonds a day, indicating that almonds' effect increases with increased consumption. The study also found that all of the people in the study, both those who ate one-ounce servings and those who ate more, maintained their weight (Jenkins et al., 2002a).

Similarly, a recent study compared the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Step 1 Diet (7 percent calories from saturated fat; 200 mg cholesterol), to a low-almond diet and high-almond diet, in which almonds contributed 0 percent, 10 percent and 20 percent of the total calories. Researchers found that individuals who ate 20 percent of calories from almonds lowered total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and LDL to HDL ratio significantly more than those on the NCEP Step 1 diet and the low almond diet. The high almond diet lowered total cholesterol by 7.0 percent and LDL cholesterol by 9.0 percent compared to baseline. The researchers found an increasing effect on cholesterol levels as almond consumption increased (Sabate et al., 2003).

These findings are consistent with a meta-analysis of seven clinical studies that found that eating one ounce of almonds daily as part of a healthy lifestyle lowers LDL cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. The meta-analysis reviewed the effects of almond consumption on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides (Fulgoni, 2002).

The results of the study showed that almonds significantly reduced total and LDL cholesterol both as measured from endpoints and as percentages. In fact, eating almonds consistently lowers total and LDL cholesterol, respectively by 4 and 5 percent. This cholesterol-lowering effect is similar to that of heart-healthy foods such as oats and soy.

Research also shows that almonds and almond oil have similar cholesterol-lowering effects. Individuals replaced half of their daily fat intake with almonds or almond oil for a period of six weeks. Results showed that both almonds and almond oil reduced total and LDL cholesterol four and six percent respectively and HDL cholesterol increased by six percent (Hyson et al., 2002).

One study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, followed 26 hypercholesterolemic men and women who were fed a low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol, high-fiber diet to which almonds and almond oil were added, increasing the average daily fat intakes from 28 percent to 37 percent of total calories. Caloric intake did not change significantly. The study found that mean serum total cholesterol decreased by 20 mg/dL within three weeks and this reduction was maintained through the next six weeks of the study. Similar reductions were seen in LDL cholesterol, while the HDL-cholesterol levels were unaffected. Researchers concluded that almonds can be a part of a cholesterol-lowering diet, even if the resulting diet is slightly higher in fat than those generally recommended to reduce elevated serum lipids. In addition, almonds can be substituted for less nutrient dense or high saturated fat foods without causing an increase in body weight (Spiller, 1992).

Source: Almond Board of California

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DIABETES

Almonds may also play a role in controlling diabetes. In a two-phase study involving 20 free-living individuals, researchers examined the effect of 100 grams of almonds a day and then compared 4 diets in a crossover design. When subjects ate 100 grams a day (about 3.5 ounces), the researchers found that LDL and total cholesterol levels decreased while glycemic control did not change. In the crossover arm of this study, total and LDL cholesterol decreased 21 and 23 percent, respectively. In this arm of the study, glycemic control was unaffected (Lovejoy et al., 2002). This study shows that almonds can be incorporated into a healthful diet without negatively effecting glycemic control while lowering cholesterol.

Another study examined the impact of a high protein and high monounsaturated fat diet containing almonds (25 percent calories from protein, 40 percent calories from fat, 22 percent calories from monounsaturated fat) compared to the American Heart Association diet (15 percent protein, 30 percent fat, 15 percent monounsaturated fat) on people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. The results showed that both diets reduced body weight in subjects (-5.9kg for AHA vs.-9.1kg for high protein, high fat) and improved glycemic control: at 42 weeks, normalized in 10 with impaired fasting glucose (IFG), and normalized in 2 and reduced to IFG in 3 of 7 with diabetes (Scott et al., 2003).

In a similar study, 65 overweight and obese adults were provided a formula-based low calorie diet with almonds (39 percent total fat, 25 percent monounsaturated fat; 35 percent carbohydrate as percent of energy) or a self-selected complex carbohydrate diet (18 percent total fat, 5 percent monounsaturated fat, 53 percent carbohydrates as percent of energy). The result was that the low-calorie almond diet produced a greater reduction in weight/BMI (-18 percent vs. -11 percent), waist circumference (-14 percent vs. -9 percent), fat mass (-30 percent vs, -20 percent) and systolic blood pressure (-11 percent vs. 0 percent). Both groups experienced lower glucose and insulin levels. Furthermore, medication requirements for individuals with type 2 diabetes decreased more in the formula-based low calorie almond diet than the self-selected complex carbohydrate diet (Wien et al., in press).

These findings demonstrate that almonds may have a role in treating diabetes and improving glycemic control and potentially improving diabetes outcomes.

Source: Almond Board of California

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CANCER PREVENTION

Population studies suggest that 90% of large bowel cancer deaths are diet related and that generally, foods labeled as high fat foods influence the risk of colon cancer. Although it is widely accepted that increased consumption of almonds and other nuts confer health benefits towards heart disease, until recently the specific effects of nuts with respect to colon cancer remained ill defined.

Dr Paul Davis at UC, Davis undertook investigations to examine the effects of almond consumption on colon cancer markers in a chemically induced animal model of colon carcinogenesis. Results, published in Cancer Letters, 2001, showed that the incidence of aberrant crypt foci in rats were lower on the whole almond diet that in rats fed isocaloric macronutrient-matched high fat, low fiber diets. Davis suggests that almond consumption may reduce colon cancer risk and demonstrates a need to reassess the current view that an intake of high fat invariably has deleterious health effects.

More recently Davis undertook investigations to further define almond’s colon cancer “protective effect”. Davis et al used a genetic mouse model to examine the effects of whole almonds versus almond-component-containing diets on the APC min (multiple intestinal neoplasis) mouse. Results showed that the diet had no significant effect on polyp numbers, however, whole almonds activated GI tract anti-proliferative signaling, which might give a mechanistic explanation of almonds’ chemo-protective effect.

Research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 2002, by Sang et al. focused on the isolation, in almonds, of a group of compounds known as the sphingolipids. Sphingolipids have been shown to have the capacity to inhibit the development of the early stages of colon cancer in mice and may be the active compound in almonds responsible for the suppression of aberrant colonic crypt foci formation. Sang and his team have also been successful in isolating a new type sesquiterpene lactone known as amygdalactone from the hull of almonds. In the Tetrahedron Letters 2002, Sang reports that the sesquiterpene lactones are compounds known for their various biological activities, including cytotoxicity to tumour cells.

Finally, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutriton (EPIC) study, designed specifically to investigate a relationship between cancer and nutrition involving 500,000 people 25-70 years old from ten European countries between 1992-98 has suggested a significant protective effect of increased nut consumption on colon cancer in women. The results of subgroup analyses by gender suggest that a modest intake of an average of ~ 16 g of nuts and seeds daily is associated with reduced incidence of colon cancer in women relative to nonconsumers, with no observable effects in men or rectal cancer for either gender. It is possible to speculate that hormonally active components may affect colon cancer risk differently in women versus men.

Future direction of Ongoing Research

Results from two ongoing animal studies by Dr. Maurice Bennink, Michigan State University, and Dr. Paul Davis, UC, Davis, CA, appear to demonstrate the ability of naturally occurring anti-oxidants in almonds to inhibit early stage colon tumor growth in animal studies. It is still to be determined how almond components may reduce the beginning phase of colon tumor development by functioning as blocking agents.

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CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE

Almond consumption fits well with current American Heart Association guidelines to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats and with the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines to liberalize total fat intake, specifically from monounsaturated fat.

Dr. Gene Spiller holds the distinction of being the first researcher to conduct and publish research on the cholesterol-lowering effect of almonds in 1992 and 1998. In his most recent research, Dr. Gene Spiller of the SPHERA Foundation Los Altos, CA, confirmed that almonds either roasted, raw, or in a butter form reduced LDL cholesterol in men and women with high cholesterol blood levels. Dr. Spiller also reported that there was an increase in the HDL (high density lipoprotein) level in the group consuming almond butter.

University of Toronto researchers found that eating a certain dietary plan high in heart-healthy foods including almonds, is as effective in managing cholesterol as taking a starting dose of cholesterol-lowering drugs. Known as the “Portfolio” eating plan, this dietary strategy includes almonds as well as foods high in soy protein, viscous fiber and plant sterols as part of a low cholesterol and low fat dietary strategy. In the initial portfolio study, published in the journal Metabolism 2002, 13 subjects with raised LDL-C levels, mean LDL-C of 4.22 + 0.11, followed the combination portfolio diet for a one-month period. At the end of the combination diet the total cholesterol reduced by 22.3% and LDL-C reduced by 29%. In a similar study, published in Metabolism 2003 provided with a control arm, 25 hyperlipidemic, individuals were randomized to one of two diets. One diet was the portfolio diet and the other diet was an equally low saturated fat and cholesterol lacto-ovovegetarian diet with mean LDL-C values of 4.64 + 0.16 and 4.40 + 0.27 respectively. After a one month period LDL-C reductions were 35% along with a 30% reduction in the LDL-C:HDL-C and a 20.8 % reduction in the TC/HDL-C ratio on the portfolio diet compared to 12.1 % reduction in the LDL-C and 5.1 % reduction in the LDL-C:HDL-C ratio on the low saturated fat and cholesterol diet . In a study comparing the cholesterol reducing capacity of the portfolio diet to that of statins, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003, 46 hyperlipidemic participants were randomized to 1 of 3 treatments: the combination dietary portfolio, a diet lacking the additional active dietary ingredients but with a similar very low saturated fat content (control), or the same low saturated-fat diet with the addition of statin (Lovastatin 20 mg).

Results demonstrated that the reduction in LDL–C levels on the portfolio diet were similar to the reductions of the initial therapeutic dose of a first generation statin, respective reductions of 28.6 % and 30.9 % were recorded for LDL–C. The portfolio and the statin groups significantly reduced LDL-C compared to the control diet, however the percent reductions between the portfolio and statin groups did not differ. This means that a portfolio diet is equally effective in lowering LDL-C compared to Lovastatin 20 mg daily.

Dr. David Jenkins leader of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and the University of Toronto’s Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine is impressed by the results adding that “For the most part, research implementing therapeutic dietary strategies has resulted in only modest reductions in cholesterol, and diet has been considered by some as relatively ineffective. On their own, these heart healthy types of foods have been studied individually and recognized by the Food & Drug Administration [FDA] for their cholesterol-lowering effects, This research showed that when we combined these heart-healthy foods into one eating plan, the effect was equal to that of the starting dose of statins, or cholesterol-lowering drug therapy – and yielded better results than previous dietary recommendations for cholesterol reduction.”

Jenkins and his team are very encouraged to see that a combination, or portfolio, of heart-healthy, plant-based foods has such a positive effect on managing cholesterol, and that the effect is equal to that of early drug therapy, Jenkins adds “While some of the reduction in cholesterol can be attributed to the reduction in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, the results illustrate the benefits of incorporating plant-based foods like almonds and soy in the diet.”

The portfolio dietary strategy is also proving instrumental in playing a role towards the reduction of lipid risk factors classified as emerging lipid risk factors. In the study published in the JAMA 2003, the portfolio plan demonstrated a capacity to reduce c-reactive protein and more recently in a study published in the British Journal of Nutriton 2004, Jenkins and his team assessed the changes in characteristic LDL particle size in response to the portfolio dietary plan; results demonstrated a favorable alteration of the LDL particle size phenotype in subjects following the portfolio regime. Studies such as these provide endorsement of the portfolio diet as a potent dietary strategy capable of reducing the risk of CVD in high risk individuals.

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WEIGHT MANAGEMENT

A clinical study recently completed by Dr. Michelle Wien at the City of Hope National Medical Center in California evaluated the inclusion of almonds in a weight reduction diet for obese patients. The study concluded that almonds were satiating and may have a future role in the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes and the management of those critical factors associated with cardiovascular risk.

Future Direction of Ongoing Research

The aims of researchers at Purdue University led by Dr. Richard Mattes are documenting the effects of almond consumption on appetite, food choice, energy balance and body weight/composition. Documenting the energetics of almond consumption holds a number of potential benefits.

If, as hypothesized, they do not promote positive energy balance but rather increase energy expenditure by increasing resting metabolic rate the data would free a key constraint on public health policy regarding nut consumption. Second, the knowledge could be disseminated to consumers to relieve their self-imposed limit on intake. Third, the work will yield other useful outcomes such as an evaluation of nut consumption on total diet quality and an improved understanding of basic physiology. This on-going study is of primary interest to dietitians and health professionals seeking dietary strategies to promote long term dietary compliance in overweight individuals. Research by Mattes and his team strongly suggests that high energy foods such as almonds may be included in a meal pattern without showing effect on energy balance and furthermore are demonstrating that energy dense foods may promote compliance with weight management regimens.

Evidence to date strongly suggests that almonds and other nut enriched diets do not cause significant weight gain, rather, they appear to induce small changes in weight especially among those that are overweight or obese. To the present, no long term weight loss studies have been performed with the inclusion of nuts as part of the diet. This has prompted the team of Dr. Gary Foster at the University of Pennsylvania to undertake a research project to evaluate the weight and metabolic effects of adding 2 oz. of almonds per day in the diets of overweight and obese patients undergoing an active program of weight loss.

The results of this study are bound to be of interest to those involved in programs promoting weight loss and weight maintenance, the prospect that almonds can be part of an effective weight loss plan is the first step towards dispelling the myth that nuts in the diet lead to weight gain. This study was projected to begin in 2005.

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