RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Study Examines Impact of Almonds on Vascular Health
Research supporting the role of almonds in heart health initially began in 1992, and since then the Almond Board of California’s nutrition research program has continued investigating the cardiovascular effects of almonds. Today, the Almond Board of California continues expanding into innovative heart health research areas, most recently looking at vascular health and the cardiac system’s resilience to mental stress.
A recent study3 from researchers at King’s College London called ATTIS (Almonds Trial Targeting Dietary Intervention with Snacks) looked at a British population and investigated several heart health risk factors as part of a multifactorial investigation. This six-week randomized control, parallel-arm trial had 107 participants (adults between 30-70 years old with above average cardiovascular disease risk) who consumed either almonds or a calorie-matched control snack providing 20% of each participant’s estimated daily energy needs. The research team then compared cardiometabolic health markers between the two groups.
They found that the almond group, compared to the control group, experienced a 4% unit increase in endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Endothelial function – assessed by measuring flow-mediated dilation (FMD) – is a key factor in the development and progression of atherosclerosis. Improved FMD means that arteries can dilate more easily in response to increased blood flow, which is a strong indicator of cardiovascular health.
Additionally, LDL-cholesterol levels decreased in the almond group relative to the control group. There was no difference between the two groups in liver fat and several other measures (triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol, glucose, insulin and others).
“This study showed that in this group of UK adults with increased CVD risk, eating almonds in place of the typical snacks that many of us consume in the UK was beneficial to heart health. Those in the almond group saw reduced LDL-cholesterol levels and improved flow-mediated dilation, a measure of arterial health. Based on existing data on risk of cardiovascular disease, we predict that replacing typical snacks with almonds in the long term has the potential to reduce the adjusted relative risk of a cardiovascular event by 30%,” said Dr. Wendy Hall, PhD, co-principal investigator and Reader in Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London. Adjusted relative risk is the probability of an event happening to a person compared to another person who does not take a step in disease prevention, such as making a diet change.
Limitations of the study were the fact that there were some differences between groups in cardiometabolic disease risk factors at baseline. The imbalance in recruitment by sex could mean that the results may not be as applicable to men since they made up only 30% of the randomized study population. Also, the participants were free-living, and although almond compliance was confirmed, it is possible there is potential for some inaccuracies in their reported food intake. Click here to view the full study.