Diabetic? Munching almonds could help  |  Photo Credit: Thinkstock
Washington DC: Diabetes currently affects over 425 million people worldwide, with more than 72.9 million cases of diabetes in India in 2017, with most people having type 2 diabetes and at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and its complications.
A recent survey by the International Diabetes Federation of over 12,000 people with type 2 diabetes revealed that two in three have cardiovascular risk factors, yet, one-fourth said they have never discussed, or could not remember discussing, cardiovascular risk factors with their doctors.
The research suggests that lifestyle changes, including improving physical activity, losing excess weight and making important dietary changes, not only help manage type 2 diabetes, but can significantly reduce the risk for developing type 2 diabetes and even provide better long-term effects than medication.
Several studies funded by the Almond Board of California demonstrate the potential cardiovascular benefits of including almonds in healthy diets among those with type 2 diabetes.
A study of 50 Asian Indians with type 2 diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels found that substituting whole, unroasted almonds, which is already a familiar food in the Indian culture, for 20% of calories in a well-balanced diet significantly improved measures of heart health that are linked to type 2 diabetes, including waist circumference: an indicator of health risk associated with excess fat around the waist, waist-to-height ratio: a measure of body fat distribution, total cholesterol: a measure of the amount of cholesterol in the blood, Triglycerides: a form of fat in the blood that can raise risk for heart disease, LDL cholesterol: the bad type of cholesterol that is a main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries, C-reactive protein: a measure of inflammation in the body and Hemoglobin A1c: a measure of average blood sugar levels over a two to three month span.
Asian Indians have a genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes, and these findings illustrate the multiple beneficial effects of almonds on cardiovascular risk factors that are associated with type 2 diabetes.
Another study among 33 Chinese participants with type 2 diabetes, who ate a heart-healthy diet, looked at the effect of including 60 grams of almonds a day on maintenance of blood sugar levels and cardiovascular disease factors.
While the almond diet offered better overall nutritional quality, neither diet with or without almonds improved blood sugar status, nor most cardiovascular risk factors as was expected. However, researchers found that among a subset of participants who had fairly well-controlled type 2 diabetes, the almond diet lowered fasting serum glucose level (which measures blood sugar levels after fasting) by 6% and HbA1c (which measures average blood sugar levels over a two or three month period) by 3%.
These results suggest that including almonds in a healthy diet may help improve long-term blood sugar levels in people with better-controlled type 2 diabetes.
A randomized controlled clinical study investigated the effects of adding 1.5 ounces of almonds to the diet for 12 weeks on diabetes and heart disease risk factors in 21 American adults with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes.
Participants in the almond-consuming group (n=10; mean age 57.8 years) experienced nearly a 30% reduction in C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, a marker of inflammation associated with increased heart disease risk, compared to those who did not consume almonds (n=11; mean age 54.7 years).
Inflammation is thought to play a role in heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, and elevated CRP is linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in people with type 2 diabetes.
Overall, the nutrient profile of almonds, which is low on the glycemic index and provides a powerful nutrient package including dietary fiber, riboflavin, magnesium, protein, calcium and folate combined with their versatility and many forms, makes them a smart snack for those with type 2 diabetes in a healthy eating plan.