A study conducted with the help of Westminster image analysis technology shows the benefits of snacking on almonds as improving endothelial function and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, namely improving heart health.

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Dr Brandon Whitcher, Senior Imaging Scientist, and Dr Nicolas Basty, Research Fellow, from the Research Centre for Optimal Health at the University of Westminster worked on the study along with academics from Kings College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. 

The study aimed to see if almonds had any impact on markers of cardiometabolic health in adults aged 30–70 at above-average risk of heart disease. The study was a six-week randomised controlled trial where, following a two-week period before the trial in which the participants consumed control snacks such as mini-muffins, participants consumed either whole roasted almonds or control snacks, providing 20 per cent of daily estimated energy requirements. 

The endothelium is a thin membrane that lines the inside of the heart and blood vessels and endothelial cells release substances that control vascular relaxation and contraction, as well as enzymes that control blood clotting, immune function, and platelet adhesion. Endothelial function was assessed, as well as liver fat, measured through MRI/magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases were also explored.

The results of the study showed that whole almonds consumed as snacks markedly improve endothelial function, in addition to lowering LDL cholesterol, in adults with above-average risk of heart disease.

Dr Wendy Hall, Co-principal Investigator and Reader in Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London, said: "This study shows that eating almonds in place of the typical snacks that many of us consume (such as crisps, biscuits and pastries) is beneficial for our heart health by reducing levels of bad LDL-cholesterol and improving the health of our arteries.  Based on existing data on risk of cardiovascular disease, we predict that replacing typical snacks with almonds in the long term would result in a 30% reduction in the adjusted relative risk of a cardiovascular event.” 

Adjusted relative risk is the probability of an event happening to a person compared to another person who does not take a step in disease prevention, such as making a diet change.

Dr Brandon Whitcher, Senior Imaging Scientist at the Research Centre for Optimal Health, said: "We believe whole-body MRI is essential to measure body composition and move beyond non-specific values like BMI. Our collaborators at KCL designed an excellent study to investigate the effects on vascular function and other cardiometabolic risk factors, we were happy to contribute by producing imaging-based measures of adipose tissue.” 

Find out more about the study on the Oxford Academic website. 

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