Growing evidence of the nutritional benefits from eating almonds has been highlighted by six different studies presented this week at the 2002 Experimental Biology (EB) conference in New Orleans, US.
The studies confirm the role of almonds in lowering "bad" cholesterol and therefore reducing the risk of heart disease and protecting against cell damage. Howvever one study suggests for the first time that we the fat in almonds may not be a negative factor - it could be possible that not all of the fat in almonds is absorbed.
One of the studies analyses the body of several existing almond studies to produce resounding results for their role in lowering 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 per cent drop in cholesterol, there is a 2 per cent 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, the case for around 102.3 million Americans, he or she may lower their cholesterol level to 190 milligrams per deciliter by eating almonds as part of an overall healthy diet and may lower their risk of developing heart disease by 10 per cent, he said.
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 per cent. The study showed an even greater decrease in LDL cholesterol in men and women who ate about two handfuls a day, showing that the nuts have considerable cholesterol-lowering potential.
At the same time, all of the people in the study, those who ate one ounce and those who ate more, maintained their weight the entire time.
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.
For those who worried about eating almonds because of the fat they contain, a study from King's College in London 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," she added, leading consumers to wonder about the calorie content offered by labels.