Looking for a healthy snack? Researchers have found that snacking on almonds improves the flexibility of blood vessels and also lowers dangerous LDL cholesterol (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2020).
How Do You Study Snacking on Almonds?
More than 100 individuals at above-average risk of cardiovascular disease participated in the six-week trial, known as the ATTIS study. That stands for Almonds Trial Targeting Dietary Intervention with Snacks. Among the volunteers, 51 were assigned to eat whole roasted almonds and 56 to munch mini-muffins as a control snack. These treats provided the same amount of calories, approximately a fifth of the total daily intake.
There was no effect on weight, waist circumference of liver fat. However, the almond-eaters saw a significant increase in blood vessel flexibility measured as flow-mediated dilation. In addition, they lowered their LDL cholesterol significantly, by almost 10 mg/dL.
The investigators estimate that consuming whole almonds instead of other snacks could lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by about 30 percent. They calculated that relative risk based on the change in LDL cholesterol and flow-mediated dilation.
One of the reasons they used whole almonds is that the skins are especially rich in fiber as well as certain other phytonutrients. The nuts also contain L-arginine, an amino acid critical for the production of nitric oxide in blood vessels. The scientists suggest that the increased polyphenol content along with vitamin E and folate could increase the bioavailability of this compound.
Just to get technical, here is what the investigators determined:
“In conclusion, the results of this trial show that replacing typical snacks with almonds can have a meaningful impact on daily nutrient intakes and can improve endothelial function, cardiac autonomic function, and lower LDL cholesterol.”
Who Paid for the Study?
The Almond Board of California provided the almonds and some of the funding for this study conducted in the UK. This doesn’t invalidate the findings, but it is worth keeping in mind.