Nuts and seeds are frequently absent from the typical Western diet, despite the fact that these nutritional powerhouses are about as convenient as it gets for a quick snack. A new study published in Nutrition Research has discovered that almonds, in particular, are the nuts to reach for if you want to significantly improve your health.
Researchers in the recent study recruited 29 healthy parent-child pairs for a 14-week randomized, controlled, crossover study. Parents and children ate 1.5 and 0.5 ounces of almonds and/or almond butter every day as part of their normal diet for three weeks, followed by a six-week washout period and another three weeks of their normal diet without almonds.
A handful of almonds per day significantly increases butyrate production, a short-chain fatty acid that promotes gut health. A team of King’s College London researchers investigated the effect of whole and ground almonds on the composition of gut microbes. The Almond Board of California funded the study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The production of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate by the gut microbiota has an impact on human health. These molecules serve as a fuel source for cells in the colon, regulate nutrient absorption in the gut, and aid in immune system balance. These findings suggest that almond consumption may benefit bacterial metabolism in a way that may have an impact on human health.Professor Kevin Whelan
The gut microbiome consists of thousands of micro-organisms living in the gut. These play a vital role in digesting nutrients and can have a positive or negative influence on our health, including our digestive and immune systems. The mechanisms of how the gut microbiomes have an impact on human health is still being investigated, but evidence suggests eating specific types of food can positively influence the types of bacteria in our gut or what they do in our gut.
Researchers at King’s College London recruited 87 healthy adults who were already eating less than the recommended amount of dietary fibre and who snacked on typical unhealthy snacks (e.g. chocolate, crisps). Participants were split into three groups: one group changed their snacks for 56 g of whole almonds a day, another for 56 g of ground almonds a day, and the control group ate energy-matched muffins as a control. The trial lasted four weeks.
Butyrate levels were significantly higher in almond eaters than in muffin eaters, according to the researchers. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that serves as the primary fuel source for the cells that line the colon. When these cells function properly, it creates an ideal environment for gut microbes to thrive, the gut wall to be strong and not leaky or inflamed, and nutrients to be absorbed.
There was no significant difference in gut transit time (the time it takes for food to move all the way through the gut), but whole-almond eaters had 1.5 more bowel movements per week than the other groups. These findings imply that eating almonds may also help those who suffer from constipation.
Eating whole and ground almond improved people’s diets, with higher intakes of monosaturated fatty acids, fiber, potassium, and other important nutrients compared to the control group.
Professor Kevin Whelan, Head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London, who led the study, stated: “The production of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate by the gut microbiota has an impact on human health. These molecules serve as a fuel source for cells in the colon, regulate nutrient absorption in the gut, and aid in immune system balance. These findings suggest that almond consumption may benefit bacterial metabolism in a way that may have an impact on human health.”