Lanier Dabruzzi, MS, RD
Jenny Heap, MS, RD
Modesto, Calif. (November 14, 2011) –Today, World Diabetes Day, marks a global effort for awareness and education about the disease, which is expected to affect 8% of the global population by 2025. Adopting healthy eating habits is high on the list of recommendations for diabetes prevention and management.1 In fact, multiple recent scientific studies have shown that a healthy diet that includes almonds every day shows promise in helping to improve certain risk factors for diabetes and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Most recently, a study published in Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental (Chen et al) demonstrated that incorporating almonds into a diet designed using the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) step II dietary guidelines, which recommend less than 7% daily calories from saturated fat and less than 200 mg cholesterol daily, improved insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles in Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes.2 Participants were recruited from the Endocrine Clinic of the Taipei Medical University Hospital, Taiwan. In this randomized crossover trial, 20 patients were assigned to either follow the control or almond diet for four weeks with a two week run-in and wash-out period. The almond diet was prepared by incorporating roasted, unsalted whole almonds into entrees, desserts or snacks to replace 20 percent of the calories from the NCEP step II diet. On average, participants consumed 56 grams (2 ounces) of almonds per day. The almond diet significantly decreased fasting insulin levels and fasting glucose levels, as well as total cholesterol (TC) levels, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol levels and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) “good” cholesterol to TC ratio (HDL:TC) compared to the control diet.3
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.3
The results from this study support the findings of a similar study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in June 2010. Data from this study suggested that consuming an almond-enriched diet may help those with prediabetes improve insulin sensitivity and maintain healthy levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol.4 The study looked at the effects of consuming an almond-enriched diet on factors linked to the progression of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults with prediabetes. After 16 weeks of consuming either an almond-enriched or nut-free diet, both in accordance with American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommendations, the group that consumed an almond-enriched diet showed statistically significant improvements in measures of insulin sensitivity and clinically significant improvements in LDL-cholesterol levels, both of which are risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.5, 6 Three caveats are that although study participants in both groups were instructed to consume the same amount of calories from carbohydrates, there was less self-reported carbohydrate intake among those in the almond group and although the diets were prescribed by registered dietitians, meals were not provided. The study’s diet and activity level data were based on participant report.
“This new research suggesting that incorporating almonds into a healthy diet might help improve insulin sensitivity and maintain healthy LDL cholesterol levels is encouraging,” says Jenny Heap, MS, RD, Health Professional Marketing Manager, Almond Board of California. “While further research is needed to confirm this relationship, it is especially helpful to understand that almond consumption might be beneficial in the early, or prediabetes, stage.”
For more information on almonds and diabetes, delicious almond recipes, or for ideas on how to incorporate almonds into a healthy diet, please visit AlmondBoard.com/Diabetes
For more information on World Diabetes Day, visit www.worlddiabetesday.org.
About Almond Board of California
Consumers all over the world enjoy California Almonds as a natural, wholesome and quality food product, making almonds California’s leading agricultural export in terms of value. The Almond Board of California promotes almonds through its research-based approach to all aspects of marketing, farming and production on behalf of the more than 6,000 California Almond growers and processors, many of whom are multi-generational family operations. Established in 1950 and based in Modesto, California, the Almond Board of California is a non-profit organization that administers a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture. For more information on the Almond Board of California or almonds, visit www.AlmondBoard.com.
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1 International Diabetes Federation: Diabetes Atlas. 3rd edition. http://www.eatlas.idf.org
2 National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). Third report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) final report. Circulation 2002;106: 3143-421.
3 Sing-Chung Li, Yen-Hua Liu, Jen-Fang Liu, Wen-Hsin Chang, Chaio-Ming Chen, C.-Y. Oliver Chen. Almond consumption improved glycemic control and lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental. 60 (2011) 474-479
4 Wien M, et al. Almond consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in adults with prediabetes. J Am Coll Nutr. 2010 Jun;29(3):189-97. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Wien%20M%2C%20Almond%20consumption%20and%20cardiovascular%20risk%20factors%20in%20adults%20with%20prediabetes.
5 Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.
6 Good news about fat. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that the majority of your fat intake be unsaturated. One serving of almonds (28g) has 13g of fat and only 1g of saturated fat.