Snacking on whole almonds for 6 weeks improves endothelial function and lowers LDL cholesterol but does not affect liver fat and other cardiometabolic risk factors in healthy adults: the ATTIS study, a randomized controlled trial.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 May 15. Epub 2020 May 15. PMID: 32412597
BACKGROUND: There is convincing evidence that daily whole almond consumption lowers blood LDL cholesterol concentrations, but effects on other cardiometabolic risk factors such as endothelial function and liver fat are still to be determined.
OBJECTIVES: We aimed to investigate whether isoenergetic substitution of whole almonds for control snacks with the macronutrient profile of average snack intakes, had any impact on markers of cardiometabolic health in adults aged 30-70 y at above-average risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
METHODS: The study was a 6-wk randomized controlled, parallel-arm trial. Following a 2-wk run-in period consuming control snacks (mini-muffins), participants consumed either whole roasted almonds (n = 51) or control snacks (n = 56), providing 20% of daily estimated energy requirements. Endothelial function (flow-mediated dilation), liver fat (MRI/magnetic resonance spectroscopy), and secondary outcomes as markers of cardiometabolic disease risk were assessed at baseline and end point.
RESULTS: Almonds, compared with control, increased endothelium-dependent vasodilation (mean difference 4.1%-units of measurement; 95% CI: 2.2, 5.9), but there were no differences in liver fat between groups. Plasma LDL cholesterol concentrations decreased in the almond group relative to control (mean difference -0.25 mmol/L; 95% CI: -0.45, -0.04), but there were no group differences in triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, glucose, insulin, insulin resistance, leptin, adiponectin, resistin, liver function enzymes, fetuin-A, body composition, pancreatic fat, intramyocellular lipids, fecal SCFAs, blood pressure, or 24-h heart rate variability. However, the long-phase heart rate variability parameter, very-low-frequency power, was increased during nighttime following the almond treatment compared with control (mean difference 337 ms2; 95% CI: 12, 661), indicating greater parasympathetic regulation.
CONCLUSIONS: Whole almonds consumed as snacks markedly improve endothelial function, in addition to lowering LDL cholesterol, in adults with above-average risk of CVD.This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02907684.