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Almonds: A useful addition to a weight – loss diet

This article has been republished from Nuts for Life. Read the original article.

Adding almonds to a kilojoule-restricted diet can help weight loss, and improve various measures of cardiometabolic health, such as blood pressure, blood sugars, and lipids, according to a new study (1).

The randomised trial, recently published in the journal Obesity, contributes to growing evidence that nuts can be part of a healthy diet for weight management.

About the Study

The University of South Australia researchers recruited 140 men and women, aged 24-65 years, and with overweight or obesity.

Study participants were randomly assigned to either an almond-enriched, or a nut-free diet.

In the almond-enriched diet group, unsalted almonds made up 15% of their daily kilojoule intake (30-50g almonds). People in the other (control) group received the same number of kilojoules, but in the form of carbohydrate-rich snack foods, like rice crackers and fruit cereal bars.

For the first 12 weeks (Phase 1), all participants were prescribed a reduced-kilojoule diet. Then, for the next 24 weeks (Phase 2), they ate a weight-maintenance diet.

The researchers tracked various weight and cardiometabolic measures over the 36-week trial.

Did you know? Moderate weight loss (5–10%) is linked with reductions in blood pressure and triglycerides, improved glycaemic control, and increased high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol (2).

The Key findings

Both the almond and control groups achieved similar weight loss, and improvements in cardiometabolic health.

  • Most participants (82%) lost ≥5% of their body weight, with an average overall weight loss of 9.3% (or around 7kg) at the end of the trial (89% fat mass and 11% lean mass), in both groups.
  • The researchers say the clinically-significant weight loss was likely responsible for improvements in various cardiometabolic risk factors.

The almond-enriched diet group consumed more total fat, monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, α-tocopherol (vitamin E) and magnesium over the entire trial, and significantly more iron at Phase 1.

The almond-enriched diet led to greater improvements in certain lipoprotein subfractions, including very small triglyceride-rich lipoprotein particles (TRL-P) and small low-density lipoprotein particles (LDL-P).

Did you know? Very-small TRL-P are associated with the presence, severity, and progression of atherosclerosis. And small LDL-P are known to be ‘highly atherogenic’ – being linked with plaque formation in artery walls. As a result, both lipoprotein sub-fractions are strongly related to cardiovascular disease risk.

What is behind the additional health benefits seen with almonds?

  • This research (and earlier studies) suggests that eating almonds improves overall dietary quality.
  • Almonds are rich in protein, fibre, and unsaturated fatty acids – which promote satiety and boost resting energy expenditure. And their heart-healthy fats help improve blood lipid levels, and ease inflammation.
  • Not all the fat from almonds is absorbed by the body. In fact, research suggests up to 26% of the kilojoules in almonds are not digested or absorbed by the body. Instead, this is excreted.
  • Almonds are also rich in vitamin E (in fact, just one 30g handful provides more than 80% of the RDI for an adult!) – an antioxidant linked with lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • They contain arginine, a known precursor of nitric oxide, which helps blood vessels remain flexible and less prone to blood clots.
 
 

The bottom line

Australians often avoid eating nuts, including almonds, due to their kilojoule and fat content.

But this large study provides further evidence that an energy-restricted diet, containing nuts (almonds, in this case) can promote weight loss and maintenance, and support cardiometabolic health. Replacing typical snacks with almonds can improve overall diet quality, and can have a meaningful impact on lipoprotein subfractions, shifting to a less atherogenic pattern.

As such, almonds (and other types of nuts) can be part of a healthy diet for weight management.

References

  1. Carter C, et al. Almonds vs. carbohydrate snacks in an energy-restricted diet: Weight and cardiometabolic outcomes from a randomized trial. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2023. 1-15.
  2. Ryan DH, Yockey SR. Weight loss and improvement in comorbidity: Differences at 5%, 10%, 15%, and over. Curr Obes Rep, 2017. 6:187-94.

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