Almonds can substantially reduce the level of bad cholesterol, protect against heart disease and protect the body's cells from damage, according to research presented at a conference in the US this week. But another study also presented at the conference shows that there are other potential benefits from eating the nuts.
Eating a handful of almonds a day as part of a healthful lifestyle may lower LDL or 'bad' cholesterol levels and help reduce risk of heart disease, according to one of the studies presented at the Experimental Biology conference. The study consistently showed that people who eat roughly one handful of almonds a day may significantly reduce total and LDL cholesterol.
"For every 1 per cent drop in cholesterol, there is a 2 per cent drop in the risk of heart disease," said Dr Victor Fulgoni, who conducted the analysis. This means that if an individual has a cholesterol level of 200 milligrams per decilitre or higher, then that level may be lowered to 190 milligrams per decilitre by eating almonds as part of an overall healthful diet, while the risk of developing heart disease can be cut by 10 per cent.
Another clinical trial conducted at the University of Toronto suggested similar effects from almonds. The study showed that men and women who ate about one ounce or a handful of almonds each day lowered their LDL cholesterol by nearly 3 per cent. The study showed an even greater decrease in LDL cholesterol in men and women who ate about two handfuls a day.
At the same time, those who ate one ounce and those who ate more, were shown to maintain their weight the entire time, suggesting that the fat content of the nuts may not be as significant a factor as once thought.
This was also backed up by research from King's College in London which showed that the cell walls of almonds may play a role in the body's absorption of the fat in almonds. When eating almonds, chewing only disrupted some of the cell walls, leaving some of the almond intact.
Dr Karen Lapsley, who carried out the research, said: "Because some of the almond remained intact, not all of the fat was released for digestion. This suggests that almonds may be a lower calorie food than suspected because not all of the calories from fat are absorbed."
Meanwhile, a study from Tufts University suggested that the nutrients found in almonds and in their skin may offer a significantly higher amount of protection than when those nutrients are isolated from each other. Another study, from the University of California, Davis, suggested there are antioxidant compounds in almond skin - in addition to its naturally occurring form of vitamin E - that may provide positive health effects when eaten with the meat of the almond.