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Almonds do a body good

Local physicians expounds on the benefits of nutty snack

MURFREESBORO — If you're struggling with high cholesterol or facing the possibility of getting diabetes, almonds could help.

"I believe almonds are healthy," said Dr. Donald Patterson with Middle Tennessee Medical Group.

Statistics from the American Diabetes Association show that more than one in 10 women age 20 and older may develop Type 2 diabetes, and half of all Americans are expected to suffer from prediabetes or type 2 diabetes by the year 2020. The American Heart Association reported that more than 102 million Americans struggle with high cholesterol, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.

Lower risks

But a study published last year in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition shows that consuming an almond-enriched diet may help improve insulin sensitivity and decrease LDL-cholesterol levels in those with prediabetes.

In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin, which is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin transports those sugars and when it the glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can lead to diabetes complications.

When there is too much cholesterol in the blood, it will begin to cause a buildup, called plaque, in the artery walls. Too much plaque can block blood from flowing easily through the arteries, thus creating risk for heart disease.

How it works

"Unsaturated fat and fiber stay in the digestive system longer than carbohydrates, with less fluctuation in blood-glucose levels, thereby helping to decrease appetite and lose weight. Fiber can act like a sponge to absorb water and maintain hydration and satiation," Patterson explained. "It can also bind to excess toxins or fats to better eliminate them from the digestive system."

Nuts, with almonds being the focus of the study, are quite convenient, too, Patterson said.