Does the Nutrition Facts Label Tell the Whole Story?

    A new study shows a serving of almonds may not have as many calories as
    the label indicates

    MODESTO, CA, Aug. 30 /CNW/ - Scientists have noticed for many years that
people who regularly eat almonds tend to weigh less than people who do not -
even though they tend to eat more calories over the course of a day(1). Why? A
new study published today in the British Journal of Nutrition sheds light on
the mechanisms behind almonds' ability to provide valuable nutrition and help
lower LDL cholesterol levels without contributing to weight gain.
    In the study, women were instructed to eat 344 calories worth of almonds
(slightly more than 2 ounces, or 56 grams) every day for one 10-week period,
and then eat their customary diet for another ten weeks. The women did not
gain weight during the period they consumed almonds. In addition, because of
the high vitamin E and magnesium content in almonds, they met the daily
dietary recommendations for those two nutrients.
    The researchers determined that the study participants felt satisfied, so
they naturally compensated for most of the calories in almonds by replacing
other foods in their normal daily diet with the almonds. They also noted a
decrease in total carbohydrate intake, suggesting almonds may have replaced
carbohydrate-rich foods.
    Additionally, the researchers found that the fibre in almonds appears to
block some of the fat they contain. So, in reality, almonds may provide fewer
calories to the body than the amount the food label states. This raises
broader questions about the availability of energy from foods, indicating that
many may not actually deliver the amount listed on the nutrition facts label.
    "Solid data has shown that eating one to three daily ounces of almonds
can help lower LDL cholesterol levels," said study co-author Rick Mattes,
Ph.D., R.D. from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. "But many health
care providers have been hesitant to recommend almonds as a daily snack
because they're a relatively high-calorie food and could contribute to weight
gain. This study challenges that assumption. The study indicates that the
nutrition facts label may overstate the amount of energy available to the body
from eating almonds."
    Héléne Charlebois, a registered dietitian and weight and obesity expert
for the Emerald Weight Management Program at the Ottawa Cardiovascular Centre
in Ottawa, Ontario, encourages her patients to consume almonds every day. "All
it takes is a handful or two of almonds each day to deliver a powerful punch
of protein, fibre, magnesium and vitamin E," says Charlebois. "This study adds
to the growing body of evidence that almonds are nutritious and may also play
a valuable role in weight management."

    Study Details

    The research team at Purdue conducted a study with 20 women, most of whom
were overweight. One group was instructed to eat a normal diet for 10 weeks,
but make one change - add 344 calories worth of almonds every day, slightly
more than two ounces. The other group was instructed to eat their customary
diet and no almonds. The groups then took a break for three weeks, and
switched, so the second group ate almonds and the first group ate none.
Researchers measured body weight, metabolic rates, and physical activity at
various points during the study. Compliance to almond consumption was assessed
through diet records, as well as by measuring blood levels of vitamin E; this
was because eating almonds, among the leading sources of vitamin E, has been
shown to increase vitamin E levels in the blood.
    The researchers found that when people were eating the 344 calories worth
of almonds every day, they were in total, only taking in an extra 77 calories
each day. This is because the participants naturally compensated for the great
majority of the calories in almonds, or about 74 percent, as they found the
almonds satiating, or satisfying.
    A further portion of these extra daily 77 calories was offset because the
fibre structure of almonds blocked the fat in almonds from being fully
absorbed. Also, although not statistically significant, the researchers noted
an increase in energy expenditure through an increase in resting energy
expenditure, or the number of calories used while participants were at rest.
Based on the various measures in the study, the researchers concluded that the
calories from almonds were compensated for by natural substitution of other
foods, by some of the fat from the almonds passing through the body without
being digested, and by an increase in resting energy expenditure.
    Also notable, eating almonds led to significant increases in the intake
of several important nutrients: polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat,
vitamin E, magnesium and copper.

    Building on Previous Research

    Previous studies have shown that the addition of nuts, and almonds
specifically, to a daily diet does not cause weight gain and increases
satiety(1). In fact, almonds have been included in amounts up to 570 calories
a day without contributing to weight gain(1). Also, recent research is showing
almonds may help reduce spikes in blood sugar following a carbohydrate-based
meal. High blood sugar levels often lead to a feeling of hunger that prompts
people to eat more than they should(1,2).
    A one-ounce, 160-calorie handful of almonds is an excellent source of
vitamin E and magnesium, a good source of protein and fibre, and offers
potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and monounsaturated fat. The US FDA
issued a qualified health claim for almonds in 2003 that states: "Scientific
evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most
nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol
may reduce the risk of heart disease."

    For More Information

    For additional information about almonds, including easy recipes and
snack ideas, visit

    Summary of Published Study:

    Journal: British Journal of Nutrition, September 1, 2007

    Research Organizations: Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.

    Study Title: Effect of chronic almond consumption on body weight of
    healthy humans.

    Authors: James Hollis, PhD; Rick Mattes, PhD, RD

    Objective: To determine if the inclusion of a 344 calorie serving of
    almonds in the daily diet results in positive energy balance, and body
    composition change.

    Subjects: 20 women with an average age of 24 and an average BMI of 25

    Study description: In this 23 week crossover study, participants were
    randomized to one of two conditions, almonds or control. The almond group
    was instructed to consume two ounces of raw, unsalted almonds for
    10 weeks in addition to their normal daily diet. The control group
    followed their usual diet. After 10 weeks and a three week washout
    period, the groups crossed over (the almond group became the control and
    vice versa). Body weight, metabolic rates, and physical activity were
    measured during weeks one and eight. Stool samples and serum vitamin E
    levels were also measured.

    Results: Ten weeks of almond supplementation did not cause a change in
    body weight despite an overall increase in caloric intake. Seventy-four
    percent of the calories in almonds were compensated for through reduced
    food intake from other sources. Inefficiency in the absorption of energy
    from almonds was also observed. The fiber structure of the almonds
    appears to block the fat in almonds from being fully available. No
    changes in physical activity or metabolism were noted. In addition, the
    consumption of almonds led to a significant increase in the intake of
    polyunsaturated fat (4.4 g, p less than .05), monounsaturated fat
    (16.9 g, p less than .05), vitamin E (35.6 mg, p less than .05),
    magnesium (18.3 g, p less than .05), and copper (9.4 mg,
    p less than .05).

    Conclusions: A daily serving of two ounces of almonds may be included in
    the diet without weight gain and may help increase the intake of
    unsaturated fats and essential nutrients, including vitamin E, magnesium
    and copper.


    (1) Rajaram S and Sabate J. Nuts, body weight and insulin resistance.
        Br J Nutr. 2006 Nov; 96 Suppl 2:S79-86.

    (2) Jenkins et al. Almonds decrease postprandial glycemia, insulinemia,
        and oxidative damage in healthy individuals. J Nutr. 2006 Dec;

    The Almond Board of California welcomes the participation of all industry
members and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national
origin, sexual orientation, gender, marital status, religion, age, disability
or political beliefs.

For further information:

For further information: Katarina Markovinovic, (416) 422-7187,; Saskia Brussaard, (416) 422-7176,

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