Researchers at the University of Toronto have found that a calorie labelled is not the same as a calorie digested and absorbed, if the food source is almonds.
The findings should help alleviate concerns that almonds contribute to weight gain, which persist despite the widely known benefits of nuts because a plant-based source of protein, minerals and vitamins.
“Nuts have generally been thought of as healthy the last two decades, but the messaging around nuts has often come with a disclaimer that they are high in fat and energy,” said John Sievenpiper, principal investigator on the study and an associate professor in the departments of nutritional sciences and medicine at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine.
“We still see that caveat in the media and on the internet today, and it has been part of many clinical guidelines, although that is changing,” said Sievenpiper, who is also a staff physician and scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, Unity Health Toronto.
“Other researchers have shown that there is a bioaccessibility issue with nuts, that a calorie labelled may not be a calorie absorbed. This study quantifies that effect with almonds in a relevant population,” Sievenpiper said.
The findings were published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings
The researchers discovered that following digestion, roughly 20 per cent of calories derived largely from fat in almonds stayed unabsorbed, they found in stool samples. That translated to approximately two percent less energy absorbed by the diet among study participants.
Someone eating the exact same number of almonds at a daily diet of 2,000 to 3,000 calories would consume 40 to 60 calories less than could be called by Atwater variables, on which lots of food labels are established. That could bring about weight reduction up to 2.9 kilograms or 6.3 pounds within per year, assuming no compensation in the kind of increased intake or decreased energy cost.
Participants in the study didn’t gain weight, which is consistent with most high-quality trials that measure nut intake and weight reduction, some of which reveal a connection with weight reduction, Sievenpiper said.
The researchers used a randomized crossover trial to study 22 women and men with high cholesterol, who underwent a series of 3, month-long dietary interventions separated with a week-long washout period.
All research participants consumed an NCEP Step-2 diet (low in Saturated fat and cholesterol ( part of the U.S. National Cholesterol Education Program). The three dietary interventions were full-dose almonds (75 grams every day or three quarters of a cup); half-dose almonds and half-dose muffins; and full-dose muffins as a research control.
Nutritional makeup of those muffins matched the almonds in amount of protein, fats and fiber.
“One unique aspect of this study is that it assessed people with high cholesterol, who are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease,” said Stephanie Nishi, a doctoral student in nutritional sciences at the time of the study who is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rovira i Virgili in Spain.
“That has not been done in this population before, and it’s important because this group typically gets many messages to eat more nuts, owing to the evidence for nut consumption and heart health,” Nishi said.
Nishi and Sievenpiper both said there’s a big gap between the amount of almonds people are recommended to eat and how many they really eat, generally and in populations at risk for cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease.
Further barriers stemming from worries about weight gain are counter-productive, they stated.
Diabetes Canada recently corrected their guidelines based in part on the study’s findings, and to avoid the stigma around almonds and weight Gain, stated Sievenpiper, that has led to guidelines to patients with diabetes and other metabolic disorders, and for cardiovascular disease disease.
Related Journal Article: https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(21)00131-2/fulltext