Almonds improved appetite-regulating hormones in people who are overweight or obese, supporting the potential of the popular nut for weight management (Eur J Nutr. 2022. DOI: 10.1007/s00394-022-03027-2).
Almonds have launched into the spotlight in recent years, partly because they maintain a naturally healthy halo that appeals to a growing number of health-conscious consumers. Almonds provide 12.5 grams of fiber per 100-gram serving, as well as 15 essential nutrients including magnesium, potassium and vitamin E. In fact, almonds were identified as the healthiest nut by consumers around the globe, including in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the U.K.
They’re also an appealing grab-and-go option for snackers, a group that jumped 15% in 2021.
As support for almonds grows, research backing its potential health-boosting benefits, too, grows.
Among the latest research is a new study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, that measured the impact of almonds on appetite-regulating hormones. The study comes on the heels of research that showed the potential for almonds to support gut health by increasing butyrate, a type of beneficial short-chain fatty acid (SCFA), in the colon.
For the recent study, 140 adults who were overweight or obese consumed unsalted, whole, natural almonds with skins (30 to 50 grams, depending on the amount of calories the participant consumed) or an oven-baked fruit cereal bar and had their levels of appetite-regulating hormones and self-reported appetite ratings measured over a subsequent 2-hour period.
The appetite-regulating hormones measured by researchers included ghrelin, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide, glucagon-like peptide-1, leptin, pancreatic polypeptide, peptide YY, C-peptide, glucagon and cholecystokinin.
Per Alison Coates, Ph.D., professor of human nutrition, director of the Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity at the University of South Australia, and lead researcher for the study, almonds resulted in a smaller C-peptide response and a larger GIP, GLP-1, glucagon and PP response compared to consuming a calorie-matched, carbohydrate-rich snack bar.
“The reduced C-peptide response seen in the almond group reflects lower insulin secretion and this could have implications for development of both diabetes and cardiovascular disease due to improved insulin sensitivity,” she explained. “Incretin hormones, GIP and GLP-1 may also have metabolic benefits, as they improve beta-cell function and insulin sensitivity.”
The hormones could also help with appetite control. Glucagon, Coates said, sends satiety signals to the brain, while pancreatic polypeptide slows digestion, which may help almond consumers maintain the feeling of fullness.
“Collectively, these hormone responses may be useful in the management of obesity,” she added.
As part of the study, some participants were also invited to dine freely at a buffet over a 30-minute period. Appetite ratings were measured at the conclusion of the buffet experience.
The almond group consumed 300 kilojoules (kJ) less energy when dining at the buffet compared to those who ate the carbohydrate-rich snack bar. While the finding is not significant, Coates said, it may be a clinically important benefit in weight management. Importantly, the study did not measure weight loss.
She pointed to the nutritional properties of almonds, including their unsaturated fat, protein and fiber content, as likely contributors to the changes in appetite-regulating hormones.
“Eating a small handful of almonds (roughly 30 grams) each day may be a simple strategy to help with appetite regulation,” Coates suggested.
Rachel Adams joined Informa’s Health & Nutrition Network in 2013. Her career in the natural products industry started with a food and beverage focus before transitioning into her role as managing editor of Natural Products INSIDER, where she covered the dietary supplement industry. Adams left Informa Markets in 2019.