TORONTO, CANADA. High cholesterol levels are a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). A high level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) is particularly deleterious with a 1% increase in LDL corresponding to a 2% increase in CHD risk. Canadian medical researchers now report that daily consumption of almonds significantly reduces CHD risk factors in patients with high cholesterol levels (hyperlipidemia). Their crossover experiment involved 27 otherwise healthy men and postmenopausal women with an average total cholesterol level of 6.50 mmol/L (254 mg/dL). The study participants were randomized to consume (on a daily basis), in addition to their regular diet, either 73 grams of almonds, 37 grams of almonds or whole-wheat muffins supplying the same amount of calories. The almonds or muffins were added to the diet for a 4-week period. This was followed by a 2-week washout period and the participants then switched to a different "supplement" for another 4- week period.
The researchers found that addition of 73 grams of almonds to the daily diet reduced total cholesterol level
by 9.4%, LDL level by 10%, LDL:HDL cholesterol ratio by 12%, and oxidized LDL concentration by 14%.
The effect of 37 grams of almonds was correspondingly less – a 4.4% reduction in total cholesterol and a
7.8% reduction in LDL:HDL ratio. Cholesterol levels were not reduced in the muffin group, but a 10.8%
increase in triglycerides was observed in this group. The researchers point out that 73 grams of almonds would also add 18 mg of vitamin E to the diet every
day. They estimate that the 10% reduction in LDL levels attained on the 73 grams/day almond "diet" would
correspond to a 20% decrease in the risk of coronary heart disease. They suggest that nuts should be
considered for inclusion in lipid-lowering diets.
Editor's comment: 73 grams of almonds corresponds to about 1/3 to 1/2 cup or about 65 almonds. This amount would also provide a very healthy 200 mg of easily absorbable magnesium on a daily basis.