According to the Almond Board of California, almonds - which have a hefty 6g of protein and 4g fiber per ounce - are the number one nut in new snack launches in North America, and are the nuts most frequently consumed as a snack, where they are commonly paired with apples, bananas, chocolate, salad and granola bars.
Results from a 2013 consumer study by Sterling-Rice Group suggest they are also the number one nut that consumers associate with being nutritious, heart healthy and good for weight management, said the Almond Board.
Some of this feel-good factor has probably been fuelled by studies highlighting how almonds can stave off hunger pangs, but almonds have also benefited from positive PR in the wake of research suggesting we may be overstating their calorie content (when you bite almonds and break them up into smaller pieces, some pass through the digestive system intact, taking the energy contained in them with them).
The new study, performed by scientists from Leatherhead Food Research and the University of Sussex adds to that body of research.
“Previous studies of healthy people’s acute response to almond intake have examined glycemic changes or self-report measures,” wrote the researchers in the European Journal of Nutrition. “This is the first study to objectively examine how behavior is affected.”
Led by Leatherhead’s Sarah Hull, the researchers found that a dose-dependent effect of almonds on food intake at lunch and dinner, meaning that consuming more almonds mid-morning led to lower intakes at lunch and dinner, even though the overall energy intake for the day did not change.
“This study indicates that adding almonds to the diet as a mid-morning snack is likely to increase satiety responses in a portion-dependent manner, leading to appropriate reductions in subsequent food intake so that total energy intake over the day is not increased,”
“Almonds are energy and micronutrient dense, and they are also the tree nut highest in protein and fiber, which may account for their high satiety value. Since almonds are both nutritionally rich and satiating, they could be considered a snack food choice appropriate for a healthy diet.”
The study’s findings were welcomed by the Almond Board of California, which also funded the study. Molly Spence, Regional Director, North America, for the Almond Board of California, told FoodNavigator-USA: “It’s great to see the positive result of this study, which is consistent with other recent research we’ve seen on how almonds can provide sustained satiety throughout the day, particularly when consumed as a snack.
"And we know consumers are aware of the benefits of almonds, because they were the number one nut considered to be nutritious, heart healthy, and helpful with weight management, according those surveyed in a recent study by The Sterling Rice Group [2013 North American Consumer AAU Study, Sterling-Rice Group]. Almonds’ nutrient profile and satiating effect makes them a smart snack time choice that consumers won't regret, while a safe and stable supply year over year means they are an ingredient manufacturers can depend on.”
Led by Sarah Hull from Leatherhead Food Research, the researchers recruited 32 health women and assigned them to one of three groups: The women were assigned to eat their standard breakfast and the asked to consume 0, 28 or 42 grams of almonds mid-morning for three days. Two weeks washout periods followed these before crossing over to a different intervention.
Results showed that “intake at lunch and dinner significantly decreased in a dose-dependent manner in response to the almond snacks”, said the researchers.
In addition, appetite ratings were found to be time-dependent, with appetite being suppressed between consuming the snack and lunch, but not between lunch and dinner, said the researchers. Moreover, the mid-morning to lunch suppression of appetite was also linked to the quantity of almonds consumed.
“Almonds might be a healthy snack option since their acute satiating effects are likely to result in no net increase in energy consumed over a day,” they concluded.
Source: European Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1007/s00394-014-0759-z
“A mid-morning snack of almonds generates satiety and appropriate adjustment of subsequent food intake in healthy women”
Authors: S. Hull, R. Re, L. Chambers, A. Echaniz, M.S.J. Wickham