Almonds may help people with Type 2 diabetes maintain a healthy heart, according to a new study recently released at the Experimental Biology annual meeting in New Orleans.

Almonds may help people with Type 2 diabetes maintain a healthy heart, according to a new study recently released at the Experimental Biology annual meeting in New Orleans.

Additional studies show a diet with nuts also may impact the risk for cardiovascular disease. In all, the researchers from North America, Europe and Asia presented five studies looking into how nuts impact human health.

Researchers from Taipei Medical University and Tufts University collaborated on new research that examined the effects of almonds on risk factors for cardiovascular disease among 20 Chinese Type 2 diabetic patients with mildly hyperlipidemia and treated with oral hypoglycemics.

Researchers measured body fat, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, oxidative stress, blood sugar, insulin and inflammatory biomarkers.

The 12-week clinical trial had subjects randomly assigned to receive either an NCEP Step II diet or the almond-based diet, which was the NCEP Step II diet that added almonds to replace 20% of the total calorie intake.

At the end of the study researchers found that the almond diet led to a significant decrease in body fat by 1%, total cholesterol by 8% and LDL cholesterol by 13%.

Most importantly, researchers found that inclusion of almonds decreased blood glucose and insulin and inflammation.

Alpha-Tocopherol or vitamin E levels in the blood increased, as well as the resistance of LDL cholesterol against oxidation, when tissues were tested in a laboratory environment. The NCEP Step II diet also improved cardiovascular risk factors. The changes, however, were not as clinically meaningful as those noted with the almond diet.
"The results of this study were very interesting, suggesting that more research needs to be conducted to evaluate the benefit of almonds on cholesterol and insulin resistance among individuals with type 2 diabetes from different populations," noted Dr. Oliver Chen, lead study author from Tufts University.

He emphasized that more research will "provide us with a better understanding of how day-to-day diet, genetics and lifestyle factors may influence the overall contribution of almonds to the diet."
Another new study by Dr. Cyril Kendall and funded by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition and Research and Education Foundation examined the impact of nuts, including almonds, on not only cardiovascular disease risk factors, but also hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels.

HbA1c is a test used to estimate the management of blood sugar over the past two to three months. In this three-month study, 117 individuals with diabetes treated with oral medication to help manage their blood sugar levels were randomly assigned to receive one of three diets, a full-dose, mixed-nut diet (75g), half-dose, mixed-nut diet (38g) and half portion of muffins or muffin diet (control). Researchers measured HbA1c levels, serum lipids, blood pressure, oxidative stress and inflammatory biomarkers
Researchers found that the full-dose, mixed-nut diet resulted in a significant improvement in glycemic control as indicated by a reduction in HbA1c levels (P<0.01). There was also a significant decrease in cardiovascular risk factors, total cholesterol (P<0.022) and LDL cholesterol (P<0.027), with the full-dose, mixed-nut group compared to the control group.
"These findings build upon previous research which has found that nuts have a beneficial role in impacting serum lipid levels, and interestingly, also suggest that nuts may have value in promoting glycemic control," explained Kendall, lead study author from the University of Toronto.

While follow-up research is needed to explore the impact of nuts on blood sugar levels, this new study reinforces the many potential contributions nuts, including almonds, may have for our diets and health, Kendall noted.
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