Researchers have found that eating more almonds helps prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It does so by improving your insulin sensitivity and lowering levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
About 16 million Americans are today believed to have “prediabetes.” This is a condition that is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. By 2020, half all Americans are expected to have either prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Because of this, nutritional approaches to prevention are essential.
A new study has found that almonds are one way to improve your insulin sensitivity and lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in people with prediabetes.
Researchers looked at the effects of consuming an almond-enriched diet on factors linked to the progression of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It included 65 adults with prediabetes, average age 54. They either received a control diet (15%-20% calories from protein, 10% total energy from saturated fat, 60%-70% from carbohydrate and monounsaturated fatty acids and cholesterol) or a diet that ensured that 20% of the calories came from almonds.
The study lasted four months. Those people eating almonds showed significantly improved LDL-cholesterol levels and measures of insulin sensitivity. Both are huge risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Nutrients in almonds, such as fiber and unsaturated fat, have been shown to help reduce LDL-cholesterol levels, increase insulin sensitivity and increase beta-cell function, all of which can help to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. These explain why the almond group in the study experienced such health benefits.
There is a growing body of evidence tying almonds to a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. But this new study adds something: it shows that almonds might help reduce your risk of certain chronic diseases through their nutrient composition. Almonds offer 3.5 grams of fiber, 13 grams of unsaturated fat and only one gram of saturated fat per one-ounce serving.
It is another promising sign that, for people with risk factors for chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, dietary changes may help to improve factors that play a potential role in the disease development.
If you are concerned about the fat content of almonds, know on one hand that at least it is largely healthy fats. But you can aim to incorporate a healthy handful of almonds each day to get this desired effect. Make sure they are the unsalted variety.
By Victor Marchione, M.D. on 01/21/2011