Nearly 26 million American adults and children have diabetes and by the year 2025, this condition is projected to affect 438 million worldwide, or 7.8% of the adult population.(1,2) One of the first lines of defense in disease management is dietary change, which highlights the significance of two recently published studies. Both suggest that including almonds in the diet may aid individuals with type 2 diabetes in maintaining cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
The first, an almond-specific study published in Metabolism, reveals that eating one ounce of almonds immediately before a high-starch test meal showed a 30% decrease of post-meal glucose levels (P= .043) in participants with type 2 diabetes and a 7% decrease in those without diabetes (P= .638). After an overnight fast, participants were randomized into groups to receive a test meal with or without almonds. The results showed that including almonds with the test meal reduced blood sugar levels after the meal in participants with type 2 diabetes.(3)
In a subset of the same participants, a small pilot study was conducted to test the effect of regular almond consumption on blood glucose levels. The participants with type 2 diabetes were randomized into one of two groups (6-7 subjects per group). One group was instructed to consume 1 ounce of almonds (163 kcal, 0g carbohydrate, 14 g fat) 5 days per week for 12 weeks. The other group (control) was instructed to eat 2 cheese sticks (160 kcal, 0 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat) in place of the almonds for the same time period. The two diets were isocaloric and had similar fat and carbohydrate content. The study found that daily consumption of a one ounce serving of almonds over a 12-week period was associated with a 4% decrease in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a measure of blood glucose levels over a two to three month period, and a 4% reduction in body mass index (BMI) in those with type-2 diabetes.(3)
A second recent study published in Diabetes Care found that nuts, such as almonds, helped to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood glucose levels for men and postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes.(4)
"Both of these studies further deepen our understanding of the benefits of almond consumption for those with type 2 diabetes," said Karen Lapsley, PhD, Chief Science Officer for the Almond Board of California. Lapsley continues, "Those with diabetes are faced with many challenges with their disease management, which is why we are always energized when new research is published that supports our understanding of almonds' role in helping alleviate some of the difficulties."
Study at a Glance:
Cohen AE, Johnston CS. Almond ingestion at mealtime reduces postprandial glycemia and chronic ingestion reduces hemoglobin A1c in individuals with well controlled type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism (2011), doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2011.01.017
The People: 20 healthy adults; 13 without type 2 diabetes (2 men and 11 women) and 7 with type 2 diabetes (4 men and 3 women).
The Diet: In the main study, the test meal without almonds was composed of a white bagel, berry juice and butter. The treatment meal with almonds included 1 ounce (28 g) of almonds in addition to a white bagel, berry juice and butter; the amount of butter was reduced to compensate for the fat content of the almonds. In the pilot study, either 1 ounce of almonds or 2 cheese sticks 5 days per week for twelve weeks.
The Results: In the main study, the test meal with almonds reduced postprandial glycemia significantly (-30%, P= .043) in participants with type 2 diabetes, but not significantly in those without diabetes (-7%, P= .638). The maximum stimulated glucose concentration was reduced by almond ingestion in individuals with type 2 diabetes, but not in healthy adults. Mealtime insulinemia was not impacted by almond ingestion in participants with type 2 diabetes or without diabetes. GLP-1 concentrations at 30 minutes postmeal were not significantly impacted by almond ingestion for either group. In the pilot study, the only biomarker that changed significantly over the 12-week period was HbA1c at -4% vs +1% (P=.045) for almond and control groups, respectively. An additional finding was that chronic almond consumption was associated with a 4% reduction in BMI (P=.047) in the almond group compared to the control group; energy intakes did not differ between the groups at baseline and 12 weeks.
The Limitations: Potential limitations in the main study include the age difference between the groups with diabetes and those without, with the group with type 2 diabetes having an older average age. Additionally, conflicting data within the study specifically that about HbA1c, may reflect the need for the study to be longer.
These studies offer further information and explanation about a readily available, delicious food option for those with type 2 diabetes who are trying to maintain their blood glucose levels. The studies deepen our understanding of almond consumption benefits for those with type 2 diabetes because they demonstrate the health benefits of both acute and long term consumption. Almonds offer 3.5 grams of fiber, 13 grams of unsaturated fat and only 1 gram of saturated fat per one-ounce serving.(5)
Consumers all over the world enjoy California Almonds as a natural, wholesome and quality food product, making almonds California's leading agricultural export in terms of value. The Almond Board of California promotes almonds through its research-based approach to all aspects of marketing, farming and production on behalf of the more than 6,000 California Almond growers and processors, many of whom are multi-generational family operations. Established in 1950 and based in Modesto, California, the Almond Board of California is a non-profit organization that administers a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture. For more information on the Almond Board of California or almonds, visit AlmondBoard.com.
(1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National diabetes fact sheet: national estimates and general information on diabetes and prediabetes in the United States, 2011. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/ndfs_2011.pdf
(2) International Diabetes Federation: Diabetes Atlas. 3rd edition. http://www.eatlas.idf.org
(3) Cohen AE, Johnston CS. Almond ingestion at mealtime reduces postprandial glycemia and chronic ingestion reduces hemoglobin A1c in individuals with well controlled type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism (2011), doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2011.01.017
(4) Jenkins, DJA, et al. Nuts as a Replacement for Carbohydrates in the Diabetic Diet. Diabetes Care (2011). doi: 10.2337/dc11-0338
(5) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, 2010. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23. Nutrient Data Laboratory Page, http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl