Los Angeles: A morning snack of almonds may reduce total cholesterol, and improve the body's ability to regulate blood sugar in breakfast-skipping college students, a study claims. Many college students tend to skip meals, mostly breakfast, while they transition to a more hectic independent lifestyle, said researchers from the University of California Merced in the US.
According to the American Heart Association, daily breakfast consumption may decrease cardiometabolic risk factors including blood sugar and insulin metabolism.
"This study, the first among a college student population, shows that for those who skip breakfast, almonds are a good snack choice," said Rudy Ortiz, who led the study published in the journal Nutrients.
Among predominantly breakfast-skipping college students, including a morning snack, either of almonds or graham crackers, reduced total cholesterol and improved fasting blood sugar levels. However, the benefits were greater with almonds, the researchers said.
Those who snacked on almonds better-preserved HDL (good) cholesterol levels and improved measures of the body's ability to regulate blood sugar over the course of the eight-week study.
In the study, 73 healthy, first-year college students (41 women and 32 men) were randomly assigned to one of two snacking groups. The first group ate 56 grammes of dry roasted almonds, totaling 320 calories, per day, and the other ate 77.5 grammes of graham crackers, totaling 338 calories, per day.
Over the study period, consumption of the assigned snack was supervised by researchers except on weekends and spring break, when compliance was monitored via text. Study participants tracked their calorie and nutrient intake using a validated 24-hour food frequency questionnaire.
Results showed that those in the almond group had better measures of several glucoregulatory and cardiometabolic health indicators, including 13 percent lower two-hour glucose area under the curve (AUC), and 34 percent lower insulin resistance index (IRI).
The group also had 82 percent higher Matsuda index during oral glucose tolerance testing, which represents a gross estimation of insulin sensitivity, researchers said.
This index almost doubled among the almond snackers. Both the groups saw reductions in HDL cholesterol, but the almond snackers' levels fell by 13.5 percent compared to a 24.5 in graham cracker snackers.
"For almonds to double the Matsuda index over an 8-week period is profound, especially in a young, healthy population, illustrating the benefit in insulin sensitivity that almonds may provide," said Ortiz.
"And almonds' effect on several of the other glucoregulatory and cardiometabolic health parameters shows their potential as a smart snack, particularly in this group," he said.