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Nutrient-Rich Almonds Lower Cholesterol More

June 11th, 2003

Incorporating Increasing amounts of Almonds into a Heart Healthy Diet Lowers Cholesterol Significantly;
Reduces Risk of Number One Killer of U.S. Men

Modesto, Calif. - Take care of Dad this Father’s Day by helping him incorporate almonds into his daily routine. According to a new study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, individuals with normal to moderately high cholesterol levels, may be able to lower their cholesterol and maintain a healthy heart by substituting almonds into their diets for less nutrient-dense foods. Researchers concluded it is likely the combination of a variety of nutrients uniquely found in almonds – such as vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, arginine and dietary fiber – incorporated into the highly effective National Cholesterol Education Program Step 1 diet that reduces cholesterol and cardiovascular disease risk. Today, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.

Researchers at Loma Linda University compared the effects of individuals consuming two levels of almond consumption (low and high) with those following the National Cholesterol Education Program’s Step 1 Diet*. The low- and high-almond diets were designed by replacing 10 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of calories of the Step 1 diet with almonds – that’s about one to two handfuls of almonds.

The results showed a decrease in total cholesterol, as well as LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels across all diets. However, the most significant changes were seen among individuals consuming the diet with the most almonds. Individuals with normal cholesterol levels also benefited from this eating plan by maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. This is promising news for people who want to stay healthy. As an added benefit, researchers also found that despite the addition of almonds to the diet, participants maintained their weight.

“In addition to reducing LDL cholesterol, the high-almond diet also illustrated decreases in the risk factors of cardiovascular disease,” commented Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, the study’s lead author. “While the monounsaturated fats in almonds are beneficial for heart health, our research also found that other nutrients in almonds may reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors as well. For instance, almonds have a high concentration of the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E, an antioxidant that has been associated with lower risk of heart disease.”

Almonds are also a good source of protein that is rich in arginine, added Sabaté. Arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide that is known to inhibit platelet adhesion. Almonds also contain dietary fiber, phytosterols, and other phytochemicals that may have cardio-protective effects.

“These findings are good news for individuals interested in following a heart-healthy diet,” said Sabaté. “Many cholesterol-lowering diets are restrictive, allowing for little total and saturated fat, and are difficult to maintain in the long run. This research shows that just a handful of almonds a day supplies healthy monounsaturated fats and other beneficial nutrients for a healthy heart.”

For More Information Consumers can visit for more information and news about eating a daily handful of healthful almonds, plus easy recipes and snack ideas.

SUMMARY OF PUBLISHED STUDY Published: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 77, No. 6, 1379-1384, June 2003 Research Organization: Loma Linda University Study Title: Serum Lipid Response to the Graduated Enrichment of a Step 1 Diet with Almonds: a Randomized Feeding Trial Authors: Joan Sabaté, Ella Haddad, Jay S. Tanzman, Pera Jambazian, and Sujatha Rajaram Objective: Researchers compared the effects of two levels of almond intake with those of a National Cholesterol Education Program Step 1 diet on serum lipids, lipoproteins, apolipoproteins, and glucose in healthy and mildly hypercholesterolemic adults. Subjects: 25 healthy subjects (14 men, 11 women) Study Description: A randomized crossover design where subjects were fed three isoenergetic diets for four weeks each after being fed a two-week run-in diet (containing 34% of energy from fat). The experimental diets included a Step 1 diet, a low-almond diet, and a high-almond diet, in which almonds contributed 0%, 10%, 20% of total energy, respectively. RESULTS: Isoenergetic incorporation of almonds into the Step 1 diet improved the serum lipid profile of healthy and mildly hypercholesterolemic adults. Total and LDL-cholesterol concentrations declined with progressively higher intakes of almonds, which suggests a dose-response relation.

*The NCEP Step 1 Diet, which is recommended for all Americans, restricts the total fat intake to 30% of daily calories, saturated fat to 10%, and dietary cholesterol to 300mg/day.

The Almond Board of California administers a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture. Established in 1950, the Board’s charge is to promote the best quality almonds, California’s largest tree nut crop. For more information on the Almond Board of California or almonds, visit

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