Birmingham, UK — Adding almonds to the diet, even for a short period, could reduce heart disease risk by lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow, a study by Aston University researchers suggests.
Healthy middle-aged and young men (mean ages, 56 and 22 years, respectively) and young men (mean age, 27 years) with at least two cardiovascular (CV) risk factors ate 50 grams (1.76 ounces or 3.5 tablespoons) of almonds daily for four weeks. A group of healthy controls maintained their usual diet during the study period. Plasma levels of alpha-tocopherol, blood pressure, total HDL- and LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides were measured at baseline and at the study’s end. Alpha-tocopherol is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in nuts, seeds, certain vegetables and grains.
Although alpha-tocopherol levels were similar among all groups at baseline, they were markedly higher in the men who ate almonds at the end of four weeks. In addition, their blood flow-mediated dilatation improved and diastolic blood pressure were reduced significantly, the authors write. Systolic blood pressure declined only among healthy young men who ate almonds.
At the end of the study, HDL- and LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels were significantly higher in the middle-aged group and the CV group, but the changes weren’t affected by almond consumption.
The authors conclude that “a short-term almond-enriched diet can increase plasma alpha-tocopherol and improve vascular function in asymptomatic healthy men between 20 and 70 years of age without affecting plasma lipids or markers of oxidative stress.”
The results were published in the journal Free Radical Research (2014;48:599-606).