Nearly 26 million Americans are living with diabetes—that’s a lot of us—so we think those 26 million people should know about the positive impact almonds can have on their health.
Taking On Diabetes
More and more research is showing that adding almonds to a diabetes-friendly diet may actually help improve certain risk factors for the disease.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition demonstrated that consuming an American Diabetes Association-recommended diet where 20% of total calorie intake came from almonds helped improve insulin sensitivity in individuals with prediabetes. Insulin sensitivity is a measure of how well your body processes glucose. The study results also indicated that adding almonds to this diet can also help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Nutrients in almonds, such as fiber and unsaturated fat have been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood glucose levels.*
Study Limitations: The single fasting insulin sample and sample size are limitations in this study, as well as possible errors in patient self-reporting of dietary intakes and differences in carbohydrate intakes between the two groups.
Breakfast and Glucose Levels
According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition & Metabolism, consuming a breakfast containing almonds, which is a low glycemic index food, can aid in stabilizing blood glucose levels for the better part of the day. This is good news if you are looking for a food to keep you going until the clock strikes lunch. In addition, study participants (14 adults with impaired glucose tolerance, average age of 39 years) felt fuller for a longer period of time.**
Study Limitations: Although the test meals were matched for available carbohydrate content, they were not matched on energy value or macronutrient composition. Additional research is needed to assess the long-term effects of including almonds in the breakfast meal on blood glucose concentrations.
Heart Disease and Diabetes
People who have diabetes often are at higher risk for heart disease. Results from a study published in Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental suggests that incorporating almonds into the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Step II Diet can improve insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes. The results also suggested that adding almonds to the NCEP step II diet can help maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels in these patients. ***
Study Limitations: Limitations of this study include the sample size, length of the study, lack of an oral glucose tolerance test, and lack of hemoglobin A1c readings. The sample size for this study is considered small for a feeding study, so the results may not be extrapolated to apply to a larger population. Though the study showed that almond consumption lowered fasting blood glucose and insulin levels, in order to gauge the effect on insulin actions, an oral glucose tolerance test is needed, and none was administered. Lastly, because hemoglobin A1c is a measure of blood glucose readings over a 2-3 month period, it was not assessed in this study, as the study interventions only lasted for 4 weeks at a time.
* Wien M, et al. Almond consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in adults with prediabetes. J Am Coll Nutr 2010;29(3):189-97.
**Mori AM, Considine RV, Mattes RD. Acute and second-meal effects of almond form in impaired glucose tolerant adults: a randomized crossover trial. Nutr Metab 2011;8(1):6 doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-8-6.
*** Li SC, Liu YH, Liu JF, Chang WH, Chen CM, Chen CY. Almond consumption improved glycemic control and lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism 2011;60:474-479