Eating almonds may reduce the risk of heart disease by increasing levels of the antioxidant alpha-tocopherol in the blood stream, reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow, according to UK researchers.
The study, published in the journal Free Radical Research, tested the impact of a short-term almond-enriched diet on healthy young and middle-aged men as well as on a group of young men with cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure or being overweight. The study's control group maintained habitual diets, while the experiment group consumed 50 grams of almonds a day for four weeks as snacks.
The Aston University research team said the experiment group had higher levels of the antioxidant alpha-tocopherol in their blood, improved blood flow and lower blood pressure, which may in turn influence their risk of developing heart disease. However, plasma lipids and markers of oxidative stress were unchanged.
Professor Helen Griffiths, who led the research, said the results confirmed the position of almond as a ‘superfood’ and shed further light on the benefits of consuming a Mediterranean diet.
“Previous studies have shown that they keep your heart healthy, but our research proves that it isn’t too late to introduce them into your diet - adding even a handful (around 50 g) every day for a short period can help,” she said.
In a nutshell
The researchers said the plasma alpha-tocopherol/cholesterol ratios did not differ between groups at the beginning of the study, however were “significantly elevated” after the almond intervention.
Plasma protein oxidation and nitrite levels remained the same across the groups throughout, but total high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterols and triglycerides were “significantly higher” in the healthy middle-aged men and young men with cardiovascular risk factors but were not affected by almond intake, they wrote.
For those given almonds, blood flow mediated dilatation (FMD) was improved and diastolic blood pressure was reduced significantly after the month period. However, systolic blood pressure only reduced for the healthy almond-consuming men.
Systolic blood pressure is the term used to describe the pressure in the arteries created by the heart's beats and contractions. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests in between.
Source: Free Radical Research
Volume, 48, Issue 5, Pages 599-606, doi: 10.3109/10715762.2014.896458
“An almond-enriched diet increases plasma α-tocopherol and improves vascular function but does not affect oxidative stress markers or lipid levels”
Authors: K. Choudhury , J. Clark , H. R. Griffiths