Can almonds improve diabetes risk factors?
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Eating almonds regularly may lead to improvements in both body weight and blood sugar in overweight and obese people, according to a study. The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, found that eating almonds daily for 12 weeks reduced insulin resistance, improved pancreatic function, and helped control blood glucose levels.

The group given almonds also achieved significant reductions in body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference over the intervention period and lowered their total cholesterol, the researchers said. “Our almond consumers had improvements to both body weight and blood sugar,” said Viswanathan Mohan, president and chief of diabetes research at Madras Diabetes Research Foundation in Chennai, and one of the study authors.

“Obesity is a health problem seen around the world, and we know obesity raises the risk of chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes. We also know this is a complex problem, tightly interwoven with diabetes, and we think we have identified a rather simple solution,” Mohan said in a statement. Gayathri Rajagopal, PhD scholar at the University of Madras, and first author on the study, noted that almond eaters demonstrated enhanced function of their beta cells, which are the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.

“This is substantial for people with prediabetes and suggests the potential for regular almond consumption to delay onset of diabetes. Besides that, we know almonds increase satiety making them a healthy snack for people predisposed to type 2 diabetes,” Rajagopal said. The researchers also found that people participating in the almond intervention had better levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides — both of which are very important to manage obesity and diabetes.

Nuts like almonds are a healthy dietary component that could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease as well, they said. “Almonds provide 6 grams of plant protein per 1 ounce (28 grams) serving. Almonds’ favourable fatty acid profile and high vitamin E content correspond to the improvements in cholesterol and triglycerides we saw in the study,” said R M Anjana, vice president at Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, and one of the study authors.

“Furthermore, the improvements in body weight, pancreatic function, reduction in insulin resistance, and better blood sugar suggest that almonds are a boon to cardiometabolic health,” Anjana added.The study was conducted on 400 participants aged 25–65 years with a body mass index over 23 kilograms per square metre (kg/m2).

Researchers used BMI guidelines from the World Health Organization – Western Pacific Region stating that over 23 kg/m2 corresponds to overweight and over 25 kg/m2 to obese. Participants had central obesity, dyslipidemia i.e. imbalance of blood lipids, such as cholesterol, family history of diabetes, normal blood pressure as well as hypertension, and they routinely consumed mid-morning snacks.

A subsample of 126 participants was asked to wear a continuous glucose monitor for 14 consecutive days. Researchers found that participants in the almond treatment group had improvement in their beta cell function, reduced insulin resistance and lowered total cholesterol.

In addition, these participants had significant reductions in body weight, BMI, waist circumference, glucose, and triglycerides over 12 weeks, they said.The almond intervention participants also consumed 13 per cent fewer carbohydrates, increased calories from fat, and experienced increased intakes of protein, monounsaturated fat, and dietary fibre.

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For the subsample wearing the continuous glucose monitors, the almond intervention participants had better glycemic responses compared to the control participants, the researchers said. This study also included researchers from Purdue University, US, Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain, and Harvard University in the US, among others

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