Study: Eating almonds may help lower CVD risk factors and associated healthcare costs

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages / Daisy-Daisy
©GettyImages / Daisy-Daisy

Related tags Almonds CVD Almond board

A recent study conducted by researchers at Tufts University suggests that consuming 1.5 ounces of almonds per day, compared to no almond consumption, may help reduce CVD risk factors such as elevated LDL cholesterol levels, and as a result, reduce an individual's healthcare costs associated with treating such conditions.

The study was published in the BMC Public Health​ journal and was funded by the Almond Board of California.

Almonds and heart health

Almonds contain a variety of bioactive components, and mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which have been individually related to cardiovascular health. The USDA’s qualified health claim for tree nuts and heart health states, “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Researchers noted: “Although there is no direct study investigating the effect of almond on cardiovascular disease outcomes, our recent meta-analysis found that almond consumption reduced the level of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, such as low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), total cholesterol, body weight, and apolipoprotein B (a protein involved in the metabolism of lipids).”

A reduction in CVD risk factors due to increased almond consumption could lessen the financial burden of CVD-related treatments and procedures, said researchers.

“Cardiovascular disease (CVD) treatments are usually expensive, which include medications and invasive or non-invasive surgeries. Between 2014 and 2015, the estimated direct cost of CVD and stroke was $213.8bn in the US."

Heart disease is also the leading cause of death in the US accounting for over 630,000 deaths and over 140,000 stroke-related deaths in 2015, according to the National Center for Health.

“The purpose of this research is to determine whether the consumption of almonds is an economically preferred alternative for CVD primary prevention using both short-term base case analysis and 10-year risk prevention.”

Methods and conclusions

For the study, researchers recruited 150 US adults with increased risk of type 2 diabetes; 48 men and 89 women completed the study.

The study model had participants consume 42.5 g of (1.5 ounces) of almonds per day (dubbed the ‘almond strategy​’ by researchers) and compared the results to adults who did not consume any almonds ('non​-almond strategy') ​over a one-year period.  

After one year of consuming almonds daily, researchers noted a reduction in CVD risk factors such as LDL-C, total cholesterol, body weight, and Apolipoprotein B among participants. As a result, participants who followed the ‘almond strategy’ ended up paying less in CVD-related health procedures over the one-year period.

Researchers noted that due to the wide variety of health insurance options in the US, they were not able to summarize the average premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses for CVD treatment. Instead, the study used the average healthcare cost of CVD treatments.

“We found that it costs an individual $1,211 to prevent CVD in one year by consuming almonds everyday versus $1,625 for no almonds, indicating that consuming almonds may be cost-effective to prevent CVD in the short term,”​ noted researchers.

When expanding the timeline of the study to 10 years, the almond strategy cost $5,750 less than the non-almond strategy per individual.

Given that the American population consumed an average of 2.93 g of almonds daily in the 2017–2018 crop year, the potential benefits of increasing the almond consumption to the recommended level of 42.5g per day could be significant, the researchers stated.

However, researchers cautioned, that more data is needed to estimate the costs of almonds and procedures over time.

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