Three studies presented during this week's 2005 Experimental Biology conference add to the growing body of research that eating just a handful of almonds may be a valuable tool to combat some of America's leading health threats, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
The studies suggest that one reason for almonds' healthful benefits may be the way their nutrients are absorbed in the body. Almonds appear to help block absorption of fat and carbohydrates and improve satiety, which may be a key mechanism behind their heart-healthy, cholesterol lowering and weight- maintenance capabilities.
"Our research shows that the fiber structure of almonds may block some of the fat from being absorbed, thereby reducing the calories available from almonds," says research presenter Peter Ellis, PhD, King's College London. "It is possible that the fiber in almonds is also affecting carbohydrate absorption, which may have implications for diabetes and heart disease."
Among the findings presented at Experimental Biology:
Adding almonds to your diet may contribute to greater satiety and may prevent weight gain. According to researchers at Purdue University, preliminary results show that adding nearly two servings of almonds to one's existing diet had no effect on body weight or percentage of body fat. The study showed that people who added almonds to their diets reduced calories from other food sources. As a result, individuals did not consume extra calories or gain weight.
"We found it to be remarkable that participants naturally compensated for the added calories from almonds in their diet," said study author James Hollis, PhD, Purdue University. "Our early hypothesis is that the fiber and protein found in almonds may contribute to greater satiety, which in turn helps people maintain their body weight."
Although this natural compensation for added calories has been documented in other almond studies, more data must be collected and analyzed before researchers can fully explain why almonds have this effect.