Almonds Lower Bad Cholesterol LSU AgCenter Nutritionist Says

Heli J. Roy  |  9/14/2006 12:17:37 AM

Good Fat?Looking for an excuse to eat nuts? The monosaturated fat in almonds is good for you.

News You Can Use For December 2003

The almond is one of the oldest and most widely grown of all of the world's nut crops. "Almonds have long been considered valuable commodities," says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Heli Roy.

Originally almonds came from Central Asia, but those that we see in the grocery store today most likely are grown in the fertile fields of California.

"We tend generally to stay away from eating too many nuts, because they are high in fat and are very energy dense," Roy says, pointing out that one ounce of almonds (28 grams) has 160 calories, of which 120 calories come from fat.

Yet, almonds are high in fiber, protein, folic acid, vitamin E, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, phosphorus and phytochemicals. Additionally, almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, which protect against heart disease by lowering low density lipoprotein (LDL) or the "bad" cholesterol and increasing high density lipoprotein (HDL) or the "good" cholesterol.

Researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, La., conducted two studies using almonds in the diets of healthy and diabetic volunteers. Those who conducted the studies were: Dr. Jennifer Lovejoy, formerly chief of the Women’s Nutrition Research program and now department head of nutrition at Bastyr University; Dr. Marlene Most, chief of the metabolic kitchen; Dr. Frank Greenway, medical director of the Pennington Clinic; and Dr. Jennifer Rood, director of the clinical laboratory.

In study 1, normal healthy subjects ate a diet supplemented with 100 grams (about 3 ounces) of almonds a day for four weeks. There was a significant increase in body weight after four weeks of consuming almonds. At the same time, however, there was a significant drop in total, LDL and HDL cholesterol. Studies done elsewhere have shown reduction in total cholesterol even with lower daily intake of almonds. Even a handful of almonds consumed regularly has shown a reduction in total cholesterol.

In study 2, type-2 diabetic subjects consumed four different diets in random order. The four diets were a high-fat diet, a low-fat diet, a high-fat diet high in almonds and a low-fat diet high in almonds.

The diets that included almonds had 10 percent of the total fat contributed by almonds. There was a significant difference in cholesterol because of total fat intake in the diet. A diet higher in fat resulted in lower total cholesterol level, and the lowest cholesterol level was found with the high fat diet supplemented with almonds.

The reduction in cholesterol level was greater than expected. This could be attributed to the fiber, vitamin E and phytosterol content of almonds. Trigylceride levels were significantly higher on the low-fat diets. The diets had no effect on glucose or insulin levels in the diabetic subjects.

"These studies show that addition of almonds to the diet of healthy individuals can have a positive effect on blood lipid levels," Roy says, adding, "Although diabetic individuals need to be careful of fat and carbohydrate intakes, nuts are safe to consume by diabetics since there were no harmful effects on insulin or glucose levels observed in these studies."

In September 2003, the Food and Drug Administration approved the following statement to be used for nuts: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."

Types of nuts eligible for this claim are restricted to almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts, Roy explains.

"So don’t be shy about using nuts such as almonds in your diet," the LSU AgCenter nutritionist says, suggesting to include toasted or plain almonds in salads, casseroles and baked products.

"The key is moderation. Including small amount of nuts as part of a regular diet will give you the heart-healthy benefits that have been found through research," Roy says.

Additional information on family and consumer topics is available by contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. Also, log on to the Family and Consumer Sciences section under the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service at the LSU AgCenter Web site: http://www.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/.  

Source: Heli Roy (225) 578-3329, or HRoy@agcenter.lsu.edu

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