High cholesterol levels are risk factors that must be taken seriously in relation to the development of cardiovascular disease. A very important therapeutic approach in this context is the modification of eating habits, e.g. by way of reducing saturated fatty acids in the diet. Furthermore, numerous studies have already shown that frequent consumption of nuts – and, therefore, almonds, too – has a positive effect on cholesterol levels. They are unique in their composition, as they supply valuable protein and fibre and have the highest vitamin E content of all nuts. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that inhibits inflammation processes in the body and thus protects against heart disease. An American study investigated the effects on cholesterol levels when the diet was gradually enriched with almonds. 25 subjects, aged between 13 and 41, participated in the study. At the beginning of the study, they had normal to slightly elevated cholesterol levels. Three groups were created, each receiving a 2,000-calorie diet. One of the groups received a diet containing no almonds; another diet supplied 10% of the total nutritional energy from almonds and the third group was given so many almonds to eat that they accounted for 20% of the nutritional energy. The outcome showed a clear dose-response trend: The more almonds the diet contained, the better the cholesterol levels. In comparison to the no-almond diet, the diet with the highest proportion of almonds reduced total cholesterol by 4.4% and "bad" LDL cholesterol by 7%, this being tantamount to a 11% lower risk of heart disease. In conclusion, it can be asserted that adults with normal to slightly elevated cholesterol levels can improve their blood lipid values by including almonds in their diet: the higher the number of almonds, the greater the effect. They can thus reduce their risk of contracting heart disease. If cholesterol levels are high, it is thus recommended that dietary strategies focus on acceptable and tasty whole foods, which also include almonds, rather than solely on reducing the intake of fat in the diet.
Sabaté, J. et al.: Serum lipid response to the graduated enrichment of a Step I diet with almonds: a randomized feeding trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003, (1379–84)