Snacking on almonds may be one of the best ideas for your cholesterol levels! Eating these yummy nuts regularly may have positive effects on the amount of HDL cholesterol in the body and improve its functionality. This has been concluded by researchers from the Department of Nutritional Science at The Pennsylvania State University.
HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) is considered to be a good kind of fat because it prevents accumulation of bad cholesterol from the body. It does this by collecting cholesterol from cells and tissues and taking it to the liver, where it is broken down. LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) is a bad kind of cholesterol, and high levels are a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Previous research has shown that eating almonds decreases LDL cholesterol levels. However, the effects of eating almonds on HDL levels and their ability to remove cholesterol from the body are still unknown.
To study the effect ofalmonds on HDL levels and functionality, 48 people with elevated LDL cholesterol levels were included. They were put on a diet for two periods of six weeks each. The diets during these periods were identical, apart from the daily snack participants received. During the first period, they got to eat a handful of almonds each day. During the second period, the almonds were replaced with a banana muffin that contained the same amount of calories and saturated fats. At the end of each period, HDL, cholesterol levels were measured and compared to the baseline measurements taken at the beginning of the study.
There are different so-called ‘subpopulations’ of HDL cholesterol, based on the size of the particle. The more cholesterol an HDL particle collects, the larger it gets. The subpopulation called a-1 HDL is the largest, thus having collected the most cholesterol. An increased amount of a-1 HDL signals improved HDL function. The researchers found that eating almonds increased a-1 HDL levels by 19 percent, and HDL function by 6.4 percent. This effect was only seen in participants of normal weight. In overweight participant, no effect on HDL levels or functionality was observed.
Researchers explained that an increase in the a-1 HDL subpopulation is meaningful because the particles have been shown to decrease overall risk of cardiovascular disease.   So stock up on those crunchy nuts, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier heart!
References: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170811134918.htm  Berryman CE et al., Inclusion of Almonds in a Cholesterol-Lowering Diet Improves Plasma HDL Subspecies and Cholesterol Efflux to Serum in Normal-Weight Individuals with Elevated LDL Cholesterol. The Journal of Nutrition, 2017; 147: 1517-1523