Almonds help make good cholesterol even better: Study

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Almonds help make good cholesterol even better: Study

Posted on : Thursday 7th of September 2017

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A new study by researchers at Penn State University, funded by the Almond Board of California and published in The Journal of Nutrition, shows that choosing almonds as a snack, as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet, may boost the most beneficial type of good HDL cholesterol and improve its ability to remove harmful cholesterol from the body.

Many people don't know that the total cholesterol number that they get from their doctor is a combination of bad LDL cholesterol - which increases risk for heart disease - and good HDL cholesterol - which helps protect against heart disease. An easy way to remember which is which:

Think of the "L" in LDL as standing in for "low," since you want your LDL number to be low. In the body, excess LDL cholesterol can cause plaque to form in arteries, increasing risk of heart attack or stroke.

Think of the "H" in HDL - the good type of cholesterol - as standing in for "high." You want your HDL number to be high. In the body, HDL's job is to scavenge excess cholesterol and carry it to the liver, where it is broken down and removed from the body.

Research shows that both HDL and LDL cholesterol have several sub-types. In general, smaller, denser LDL particles are more harmful than the large ones. And though all HDL particles are helpful, the larger, more mature HDL is seen as most protective.

In this study, researchers looked at 48 middle-aged, normal weight and overweight men and women who had elevated bad LDL cholesterol levels. All of them ate a traditional cholesterol-lowering diet, but one group ate 1.5 Servings (43 grams) of almonds for a snack, while the other group ate a high-carbohydrate muffin that provided a similar amount of calories.

"Numerous studies show that when people include almonds in their diet, they reap this benefit of lower LDL levels," said Claire Berryman, PhD, RD, lead researcher of the study. "But less is known about almonds' effect on good HDL cholesterol." For the almond snackers, bad LDL cholesterol levels went down, while good HDL cholesterol levels remained the same. This is similar to what is typically seen when almonds are included in heart-healthy diets.

But that's not all. Looking more closely at HDL levels of study participants, researchers found that those who ate almonds as a snack saw increased levels of alpha-1 HDL, the form known to be most protective against heart disease. In normal weight, but not overweight participants, almonds also improved HDL function, so that it was better able to scavenge and remove excess cholesterol from the body.

"Almonds are a smart snack," says Berryman. "This study helps shed light on additional reasons why almonds are beneficial for heart health: eating almonds can help lower your bad LDL level while maintaining your good HDL cholesterol levels - and can actually help your good HDL cholesterol work better."

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