Almonds may help boost cholesterol clean-up crew

August 11, 2017 by Katie Bohn, Pennsylvania State University
Researchers at Penn State have found that almonds may help improve function of HDL cholesterol. The Almond Board of California supported this study. Credit: Patrick Mansell

Eating almonds on a regular basis may help boost levels of HDL cholesterol while simultaneously improving the way it removes cholesterol from the body, according to researchers. The Almond Board of California supported this study.

In a study, researchers compared the levels and function of high-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol) in people who ate every day, to the HDL levels and function of the same group of people when they ate a muffin instead. The researchers found that while participants were on the almond diet, their HDL levels and functionality improved.

Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State, said the study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, builds on previous research on the effects of almonds on cholesterol-lowering diets.

"There's a lot of research out there that shows a diet that includes almonds lowers low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, which is a major risk factor for ," Kris-Etherton said. "But not as much was known about how almonds affect HDL cholesterol, which is considered and helps lower your risk of heart disease."

The researchers wanted to see if almonds could not just increase the levels but also improve the function of HDL cholesterol, which works by gathering cholesterol from tissues, like the arteries, and helping to transport it out of the body.

"HDL is very small when it gets released into circulation," Kris-Etherton said. "It's like a garbage bag that slowly gets bigger and more spherical as it gathers cholesterol from cells and tissues before depositing them in the liver to be broken down."

Depending on how much cholesterol it has collected, HDL cholesterol is categorized into five "subpopulations," which range from the very small preβ-1 to the larger, more mature α-1. The researchers hoped that eating almonds would result in more α-1 particles, which would signal improved HDL function.

In the controlled-feeding study, 48 men and women with elevated LDL cholesterol participated in two six-week diet periods. In both, their diets were identical except for the daily snack. On the almond diet, participants received 43 grams—about a handful—of almonds a day. During the control period, they received a banana muffin instead.

At the end of each diet period, the researchers measured the levels and function of each participant's HDL cholesterol. The researchers then compared the results to the participants' baseline measurements taken at the beginning of the study.

The researchers found that compared to the control diet, the almond diet increased α-1 HDL—when the particles are at their largest size and most mature stage—by 19 percent. Additionally, the almond diet improved HDL function by 6.4 percent, in participants of normal weight.

"We were able to show that there were more larger particles in response to consuming the almonds compared to not consuming almonds," Kris-Etherton said. "That would translate to the smaller particles doing what they're supposed to be doing. They're going to tissues and pulling out cholesterol, getting bigger, and taking that to the liver for removal from the body."

An increase in this particular HDL subpopulation is meaningful, Kris-Etherton explained, because the particles have been shown to decrease overall risk of cardiovascular disease.

Kris-Etherton said that while almonds will not eliminate the risk of heart disease, they may be a smart choice for a healthy snack. She added that in addition to their heart-healthy benefits, almonds also provide a dose of good fats, vitamin E and fiber.

"If people incorporate almonds into their diet, they should expect multiple benefits, including ones that can improve heart health," Kris-Etherton said. "They're not a cure-all, but when eaten in moderation—and especially when eaten instead of a food of lower nutritional value—they're a great addition to an already healthy ."

Explore further: Snacking on almonds instead of a high-carb snack reduced belly fat, other heart disease risk factors

Related Stories

Snacking on almonds instead of a high-carb snack reduced belly fat, other heart disease risk factors

January 7, 2015
A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that a daily snack of 1.5 ounces of almonds instead of a high-carbohydrate muffin, eaten as part of an overall healthy diet, improved a number of ...

An avocado a day may help keep bad cholesterol at bay

January 7, 2015
Eating one avocado a day as part of a heart healthy, cholesterol-lowering moderate-fat diet can help improve bad cholesterol levels in overweight and obese individuals, according to new research published in the Journal of ...

Research show almonds reduce risk of heart disease

June 25, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists have found that eating almonds in your diet can reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping blood vessels healthy.

Having a cow can be a heart healthy choice

December 21, 2011
Lean beef can contribute to a heart-healthy diet in the same way lean white meats can, according to nutritional scientists.

Recommended for you

Hot cars can hit deadly temperatures in as little as one hour

May 24, 2018
A lot can happen at 160 degrees Fahrenheit: Eggs fry, salmonella bacteria dies, and human skin will suffer third-degree burns. If a car is parked in the sun on a hot summer day, its dashboard can hit 160 degrees in about ...

In helping smokers quit, cash is king, e-cigarettes strike out

May 23, 2018
Free smoking cessation aids, such as nicotine patches and chewing gum, are a staple of many corporate wellness programs aimed at encouraging employees to kick the habit. But, new research shows that merely offering such aids ...

What makes us well? Diversity, health care, and public transit matter

May 23, 2018
Diverse neighbors. Health centers. Commuter trains. These community attributes, and other key factors, are linked to well-being and quality of life, according to Yale researchers.

Time spent sitting at a screen matters less if you are fit and strong

May 23, 2018
The impact of screen time on cardiovascular disease, cancer incidence and mortality may be greatest in people who have lower levels of grip-strength, fitness and physical activity, according to a study published in the open ...

Widely used e-cigarette flavoring impairs lung function

May 23, 2018
A new study has found that a common e-cigarette flavoring that has chemical characteristics similar to toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke disrupts an important mechanism of the lungs' antibacterial defense system. The ...

Study: Strenuous exercise in adolescence may ward off height loss later in life

May 23, 2018
A new study has identified several key factors in postmenopausal women that are associated with height loss, a common occurrence in this age group that is known to increase the risk for death and disease.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.