Study: Snacking on almonds keeps weight in check

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:03

    1.5 ounces of almonds daily also improved intake of vitamin E and monounsaturated fat

    A new study published in the October issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating 1.5 ounces of dry-roasted, lightly salted almonds every day reduced hunger and improved dietary vitamin E and monounsaturated ("good") fat intake without increasing body weight.

    Ninety-seven percent of Americans eat at least one snack per day, which is a risk factor for gaining weight. But this broad generalization may mask different responses to select foods.

    The newly published four-week randomized, controlled clinical study, led by researchers at Purdue University, investigated the effects of almond snacking on weight and appetite. The study included 137 adults at increased risk for type 2 diabetes. They were divided into five groups: a control group that avoided all nuts and seeds, a breakfast meal group and lunch meal group that ate 1.5 ounces of almonds each with their daily breakfast or lunch, and a morning snack group and afternoon snack group that each consumed 1.5 ounces of almonds between their customary meals. All almond snacks were eaten within approximately two hours after their last meal and two hours before their next meal.

    Participants were not given any other instruction other than to follow their usual eating patterns and physical activity. Participants were monitored through self-reported assessments and fasting vitamin E plasma levels.

    Despite consuming approximately 250 additional calories per day from almonds, participants did not increase the total number of calories they ate and drank over the course of the day or gain weight over the course of the four-week study.

    "This research suggests that almonds may be a good snack option, especially for those concerned about weight," says Richard Mattes, PhD, distinguished professor of nutrition science at Purdue University and the study's principal investigator. "In this study, participants compensated for the additional calories provided by the almonds so daily energy intake did not rise and reported reduced hunger levels and desire to eat at subsequent meals, particularly when almonds were consumed as a snack."

    Almonds have also previously been shown to increase satiety in both normal weight and overweight people. This may be attributed to almonds' monounsaturated fat (13 grams/ounce), protein (6 grams/ounce) and fiber (4 grams/ounce) content. But further research is needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms.

    Additionally, a recent study measuring digestibility found that whole almonds contain 20 percent fewer calories than the Nutrition Facts Panel states, suggesting that because of their rigid cell structure, not all calories are available for absorption. Further research is needed to better understand how this technique for calculating calories could potentially affect the calorie count of other foods.

    The new study suggests snacking can be a weight-wise strategy, depending upon the foods consumed. A handful of almonds is a smart snack choice that can help support a healthy weight.