New Delhi: As India grapples with a major public health problem, being home to an estimated 50.8 million diabetic population, the largest in the world, experts say consuming a few almonds daily can help combat the lifestyle disease.
"Eating almonds has a positive effect on reducing low density cholesterol and also improves insulin sensitivity; so it does help in pushing diabetes away," says Ritesh Gupta, head of clinical operation at Fortis C-Doc Hospital.
"It is a healthy source of fibre, protein and calories and has been found to have a positive effect in reducing bad cholesterol and improved insulin sensitivity," Gupta said.
Diabetes is caused when there is deficiency of insulin hormone, which controls blood sugar levels. Its symptoms include fatigue, excessive thirst and frequent urination.
With an estimated 50.8 million people living with the disease, India has the world`s largest population of diabetics in the world, followed by China with 43.2 million, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The number in India is expected to go up to 87 million - 8.4 percent of the country`s adult population - by 2030.
With India staring at a major public health threat due to diabetes and other lifestyle diseases, almond is now being hailed as the health nut.
"Indians are more prone to lifestyle diseases like diabetes. The increasingly sedentary lifestyle and fast food double up the risk. Almond, which has traditionally been part of our diet, is a high source of nutrition and helps push these diseases away," says Anoop Misra, director of Diabetes Foundation (India).
"A handful of almonds contains 164 calories and 7 gm of protein, which helps in fighting hunger pangs and helps you control what you eat. Almonds also help growing children in developing strong bones," he adds.
A study done by scholars from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, West Chester University, Pennsylvania, and Loma Linda University of California, all in the US, and published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition also confirms that the nut can control diabetes if consumed regularly.
"A diet consisting of 20 percent of calories as almonds over a 16-week period is effective in improving markers of insulin sensitivity and yields clinically significant improvements in LDL-C (low density lipoprotein cholesterol) in adults with pre-diabetes," the study said.
"We have made great strides in chronic disease research, from evidence of effective treatment to evidence of effective prevention," said Michelle Wien, assistant research professor in nutrition at Loma Linda University`s School of Public Health.
She was also the principal investigator for the study, which was conducted at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
"Low density cholesterol is the cholesterol which blocks the arteries. According to the study, the intake of almonds had a significant effect on reducing the levels, along with improving insulin sensitivity," said Karen Lapsley, chief scientific officer of the Almond Board of California, which was an associate in the study.
"It`s also very easy to consume, one can have it any time, so it merges well with the hectic lifestyle," Lapsley said.
Gupta, however, adds that indiscreet consumption of almonds alone will not help and it should be seen as a percentage of total calorie intake.
"It is not that one can eat anything and pop five almonds. It has to be seen as a percentage of total calorie intake. The rest of the diet is as important," he added.