Blog: Almonds Research Blog
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Almonds to Resist Obesity?

Almonds to Resist Obesity?

Summarized by Robert W. Griffith, MD
February 27, 2004


The role of dietary fat in overweight and obesity has been debated a lot recently. But while this argument continues, there's no doubt that portion sizes and total energy (calorie) intake are important factors in the epidemic of overweight in the many countries today. And different components of low-calorie diets (LCD) can be important in helping to combat some of the effects of overweight - in particular coronary heart disease and the metabolic syndrome.1

Date:   2/27/2005 8:11:31 AM   ( 17 y ) ... viewed 3569 times

The inclusion of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MFUA) in place of saturated fat in the diet helps prevent the development of the metabolic syndrome. One way to achieve this is by adding nuts, which have high levels of MUFA, and, to a lesser degree, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Scientists in California have now compared the benefits of an almond-enriched LCD with one enriched with 'self-selected complex carbohydrates', such as peas, corn, potatoes, pasta, or rice.2 Their findings are reported in the International Journal of Obesity.

How the study was done

A pool of overweight outpatients who'd been enrolled in the Diabetes and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Program at Duarte, California, provided 65 volunteers for the study. They had to be over 18, and have a body mass index (BMI) above 25. They were allocated to receive one of two diets for 24 weeks:

Almond-LCD Carbohydrate-LCD
Calories 1012 1015
Protein (% of calories) 29 29
Carbohydrates (% of calories) 32 53
Total fat (% of calories) 39 18
Saturated fatty acids (% of calories) 3 3
MUFA (% of calories) 25 5
PUFA (% of calories) 11 10
Cholesterol (mg) 4 4
Dietary fiber (g) 20 32

It can be seen that the only differences between the two diets were in the relative amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and fiber. The actual diets consisted of a formula supplemented by vitamins and minerals, and either 84 grams (3 oz.) of whole unblanched unsalted almonds, or a self-selected amount of complex carbohydrates equivalent in calories to 84 g almonds.

Daily food and exercise diaries were completed, and there were weekly meetings with a dietician and an endocrinologist. Body weight, waist circumference, and blood lipid levels were measured regularly.

What was found

At the end of the 24 weeks, the following percentage changes were seen:

Almond-LCD Carbohydrate-LCD
Body weight -18% -11%
BMI -18% -11%
Waist circumference -14% -9%
Systolic blood pressure -11% no change
Total cholesterol -13% -9%
Low-density cholesterol (LDL) -15% -10%
High-density cholesterol (HDL) -6% +15%
Triglycerides -29% -27%

The differences between the diets in reductions in weight, BMI, waist circumference and systolic blood pressure were all significant, in favor of the almond-containing diet.

Nearly all other measurements either decreased equally with both diets, or showed no change over the 24 weeks. Blood insulin levels decreased more with the almond-LCD, while there was an increase in ketone levels with this diet; the latter was expected, because of the higher proportion of calorie intake from fat. The scientists had no explanation for the increase in HDL cholesterol; the ratio of LDL to HDL (an important predictor of cardiovascular risk) decreased in equal amount in both diet groups.

When the changes in body weight over time were looked at, it was clear that weight loss with the carbohydrate-LCD leveled off after about 16 weeks, while that for the almond-LCD continued to decrease throughout the 24-week study period.


This study shows that adding nuts (specifically, almonds) to your low-calorie diet may improve your actual weight loss. It may also enhance the effects that weight loss has on blood pressure and the blood lipids.

Other nuts, in particular walnuts, have been reported to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease risk, blood lipid levels, and the likelihood of developing diabetes. So, "go nuts"!


Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program. MA. Wien, JM. Sabate, DN. Ikle, et al., Int J Obes, 2003, vol. 27, pp. 1365--1372

1. The metabolic syndrome is a group of abnormal findings including insulin resistance, abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and impaired glucose tolerance. See related links below.
2. Complex carbohydrates are those that have a low glycemic index i.e. they release their sugar content slowly, avoiding peaks that occur after 'foods' like candy, sugar-containing sodas, and so on.

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