Review published in Advances in Nutrition finds evidence to support almonds’ heart-healthy claims, but most people don’t eat enough of them.

In an effort to boost sales, food manufacturers often tout the heart-heathy benefits of eating nuts.  Nuts do provide mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower cholesterol.  Moreover, they contain other potentially heart-healthy components such as dietary fiber, vitamin E, selenium, magnesium, copper, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.  According to a qualified health claim issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2003, “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces (42.5 grams) per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Recently, a group of nutritional scientists examined the latest evidence to determine whether or not almond consumption specifically could be linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.  Their results were published in Advances in Nutrition, the international scientific review journal of the American Society for Nutrition, under the title “Almond Consumption and Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.”

In order to conduct their review, the authors searched the scientific literature for randomized controlled trials that compared the effects of almond consumption versus no almond consumption among adults.  Specifically, the authors sought to determine how almond consumption affected cardiovascular disease risk factors such as total cholesterol, body weight, and blood pressure.  In total, the authors found and analyzed 15 randomized controlled trials with 534 participants that met their criteria.

Following their scientific review, the authors concluded that “almond consumption may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving blood lipids and by decreasing body weight and apolipoprotein B.” 

Moreover, the findings suggest “that the benefits of almond consumption may extend to healthy subjects as well as those at risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The authors did note, however, that the 15 randomized controlled trials they reviewed had substantial differences in study design and methodology which precluded firmer conclusions.  For example, almond intake ranged between 25 and 100 grams per day among the various trials, making it difficult to determine the optimal daily intake.

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It should also be noted that American almond consumption, as well as nut consumption in general, is well below the FDA’s recommended serving of 1.5 ounces of nuts per day.  In fact, Americans, on average, eat only about a tenth of an ounce of almonds per day.  As a result, while the scientific conclusions on almond consumption remain somewhat tentative, most people who want to take advantage of almonds’ purported heart-healthy benefits will need to increase their consumption.

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