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Industry-funded study suggests almonds can help prevent heart damage in diabetics
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Industry-funded study suggests almonds can help prevent heart damage in diabetics

PHOENIX — Eating almonds is beneficial for those with Type 2 diabetes, according to an Arizona State University study funded by an industry group.

The study, published in Journal of Functional Foods, showed that eating 1.5 ounces of almonds can reduce levels of C reactive protein, which is part of a chain that can lead to heart disease, in people with progressed Type 2 diabetes.

C reactive protein is a marker for inflammation, which indicates a person has a high level of oxidative stress. Inflammation is important to keep in check because it can lead to heart disease, according to Carol Johnston, associate director of ASU’s nutrition program in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion.

“Oxidation is really a problem because that can further the damage to their arterial walls, which causes the heart disease problem,” Johnston said. “It’s nice to manage your glucose, but you also need to make sure the vasculature in your heart system is operating well, and oxidative stress is very damaging to that.”

From previous studies Johnston conducted, she knew that participants in the early stages of the disease would be able to keep their blood glucose levels in check by eating almonds. The almonds didn’t affect the blood glucose levels for the latest round of patients, but participants showed a 30 percent reduction in the inflammation, the study said.

Because almonds have antioxidant properties, Karen Sweazea, assistant professor and co-author on the study, said she expected to see some reduction in the inflammation marker. Yet she didn’t expect such a large drop.

“It was similar to statins, which is a prescription medication for helping to lower inflammation, so that was surprising,” Sweazea said.

Even though almonds can have a positive effect on diabetics’ conditions, the timing is important, according to the study.

Johnston said that prevention through diet is beneficial if it’s done before diabetes causes problems such as damaging the pancreas. If people have progressed diabetes, they will need medication in addition to diet changes, she said.

“It’s really important that people understand the sooner they can adopt a healthy eating style that the better off they’re going to be,” Johnston said.

The Almond Board of California funded the study and provided the almonds. Karen Lapsley, its chief scientific officer, said she was hoping to see more of an effect on the blood glucose levels, but she said participants’ varied lifestyles may have been challenging.

“Diet and exercise can play a role in flattening that slope or progression and extending the period of time before medication needs to be increased,” Lapsley said.

The study used blanched and roasted almonds. Johnston said the more whole the almond is, the better it is for a person.

Johnston and Sweazea thought about increasing the amount, but they decided it would be best to keep it to a little over a serving size.

“You don’t want people to get sick of what they’re eating,” Sweazea said. “You want it to be realistic of what somebody would do.”