Eating almonds may reduce cardiovascular risk in diabetics

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Eating almonds as part of a daily diet can help improve glycemic control and cardiovascular risk in type 2 diabetes patients, a new study has revealed.

The study found that consuming almonds caused a significant decrease in a number of critical risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes, including waist circumference, waist-to-height ratio, total cholesterol, serum triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, HbA1c (a measure of long-term blood sugar regulation) and C-reactive protein (a marker for inflammation in the body).

India is known as the diabetes capital of the world, with incidence of type 2 diabetes currently reaching epidemic proportions. Once seen as a disease of the affluent, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes now cuts across all social groups.

Researchers attribute this higher and earlier incidence of type 2 diabetes in part to the ‘South Asian phenotype’, a genetic predisposition that makes Indians more susceptible to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Dietary and lifestyle interventions are an important part of diabetes treatment, and multiple studies have demonstrated the positive health benefits of eating almonds among North American and Taiwanese populations. Dr Anoop Misra and Dr Seema Gulati, PhD, were interested in learning if including almonds, already a familiar food in the Indian diet, might help improve glycemic control and improve cardiovascular risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes within an Indian population.

The researchers recruited adults in Delhi, aged 25 to 70 years, all of whom had type 2 diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels, to participate in the study. During a three-week run-in period, participants ate a standard diet compliant with the dietary guidelines for Asian Indians and appropriate for diabetes. During this period, participants were also asked to walk for 45 minutes at least five days a week to standardise their physical activity, and were instructed to maintain the same level of activity for the rest of the study. There were 50 participants who completed the study.

Following the run-in period, participants were instructed to substitute 20 per cent of their total caloric intake with whole, raw almonds (unblanched almonds with their brown skin intact). Almonds were substituted for fat (such as cooking oil and butter) and some carbohydrate in this intervention diet, which was followed for six months.

Dr Misra said, “Almonds are a traditional snack for Indians. However, for the first time we have been able to prove its scientific all-round benefits in patients with diabetes. We now have confidence in prescribing it to all patients as mid-meal healthy snacks.”

Almonds add protein, fiber, “good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, potassium and magnesium to the diet, and are low on the glycemic index. Previous studies have also shown the benefits of almonds in improving the quality of diet without increasing caloric intake.

“This is the first study to demonstrate the health benefits of including almonds in one’s diet among Asian Indians with type 2 diabetes,” said Dr Gulati, the lead researcher of the study, which was conducted by the

Almond Board of California and published in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders.

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