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The regular consumption of almonds or dark chocolate and cocoa has favorable effects on biomarkers of coronary heart disease, but the effect of their combined intake is not yet known.
North American researchers conducted a randomized controlled crossover trial, to evaluate the individual and combined effects of almonds, dark chocolate and cocoa consumption on coronary heart disease risk markers.
The investigators studied 31 adults (13 female; mean age 46.3 years), overweight or obese (mean BMI 29.6 kg/m2) with elevated total cholesterol (TC: 210.0 mg/dL) and LDL cholesterol (138.3 mg/dL) but who were otherwise healthy. They evaluated lipid, lipoprotein, and apolipoprotein concentrations, vascular health, and oxidative stress.
The participants consumed all 4 isocaloric diets, randomly, in periods of 4 weeks each, followed by a 2-week washout interval between them.
The studied diets were:
The diets were similar, except for the presence or absence of these treatment foods, which accounted for the major differences in the nutrient profile.
Compared with the average American diet, the almond diet reduced TC, non–HDL-Cholesterol, and LDL-Cholesterol by 4%, 5%, and 7%, respectively (P<0.05).
The combined chocolate and almond diet reduced apolipoprotein B by 5% compared with the average American diet.
For LDL subclasses, relative to the average American diet, the almond diet was associated to a greater reduction in large LDL-free particles (-5.7 vs. -0.3 mg/dL; P=0.04), while with the combined chocolate and almond diet there was a greater decrease in small dense LDL particles (-12.0 vs -5.3 mg/dL; P=0.04). However, there were no significant differences between diets for vascular health biomarkers and oxidative stress.
Therefore, the consumption of nearly one-third cup of almonds a day – either alone or combined with almost one-quarter cup of dark chocolate and a little more than 2 tablespoons of cocoa a day – improved lipid / lipoprotein profiles, when compared with the average American diet without almonds and chocolate.
Lee Y, Berryman CE, West SG, Chen CO, Blumberg JB, Lapsley KG, Preston AG, Fleming JA, Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of Dark Chocolate and Almonds on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Individuals: A Randomized Controlled-Feeding Trial. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017 Nov 29;6(12).