Researchers at Loma Linda University report that the addition of almonds to the diet results in a significant reduction in cholesterol levels. Their clinical trial involved 25 healthy subjects (14 men, 11 women) aged 22 to 53 years. The participants consumed 3 different diets in 3 separate 4-week periods. Diet 1 was patterned on the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Step 1 diet; diet 2 was the NCEP diet with 10% of energy (34 grams) contributed by almonds, and diet 3 with 20% of energy contributed by almonds. The three diets had the same calorie content and the energy contributed by fat was 30%, 35% (low-almond diet) and 39% (high-almond diet) respectively. Blood samples were drawn and analyzed at the beginning and end of each 4-week diet period. The researchers found that participants on the high-almond diet reduced their overall cholesterol level by 4.4% as compared to the NCEP Step 1 diet. LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B were reduced by 7% and 6.6% respectively and the LDL/HDL ratio decreased by 8.8%. The researchers estimate that the 7% reduction in LDL corresponds to an 11% reduction in the risk of heart disease. They point out that almonds contain beneficial mono-unsaturated fats, a high concentration of alpha-tocopherol, and an unusually large amount of arginine, the precursor of nitric oxide. They suggest that daily consumption of as little as 34 grams (a handful – 35 almonds) may be sufficient to produce clinically relevant reductions in cholesterol levels. NOTE: This study was supported by a research grant from the Almond Board of California.
Sabate, Joan, et al. Serum lipid response to the graduated enrichment of a Step 1 diet with almonds: a randomized feeding trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 77, June 2003, pp. 1379-84