FDA: Eating a Daily Serving of Almonds May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
Government Issues Health Claim for 1.5 Ounces of Most Nuts; Almonds Join Elite List of Foods That Deliver Heart Health
Here’s some good news to crunch on: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first qualified health claim for conventional food, saying that eating one and a half ounces of most nuts, including almonds, may reduce the risk of heart disease when they’re part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
The claim 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.
The claim is one of only six existing health claims relating to heart disease, and is the result of rigorous review of a large body of scientific research citing the heart health benefits of nuts. The claim is a result of a petition filed by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation.
Studies supporting the heart health benefits of almonds were among the strongest submitted in the claim. One and a half ounces equals about one-third cup, or about 34 almonds.
The new health claim is a qualified one, which means that the FDA evaluated the data and determined that "though there is scientific evidence to support this claim, the evidence is not conclusive."
This is the first qualified claim the FDA has issued on a conventional food, as part of its recently updated policy to offer qualified health claims on certain foods when it helps consumers understand potential health benefits.
"Many of the studies showing nuts’ heart-healthy benefits are relatively new, but it’s great news for consumers that FDA has gone ahead and issued this qualified claim,” said FDA health claim expert Victor Fulgoni, Ph.D. of Nutrition Impact LLC. “It means that consumers are hearing the results of the latest science more quickly and consumers can have confidence in the claim since FDA has reviewed the science."
Fulgoni said the ruling is a result of a careful review of peer-reviewed clinical trials on almonds and other nuts. “In particular, very recently there have been two well-designed, dose response studies published showing almonds’ role in lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol levels,” he said.
FDA’s authorization may come as a surprise to those who mistakenly believe nuts are a food to avoid. However, this claim is in line with recommendations from leading heart health organizations, such as the American Heart Association, which promote the substitution of foods high in saturated fats with those containing healthful, unsaturated fats such as the monounsaturated fats found in almonds.
Almonds consistently rank as Americans’ favorite tree nut. Why? "They’re packed with nutrition, and it’s hard to think of a nut that’s more tasty or versatile," said Carolyn O’Neil, M.S., R.D. "Almonds go with just about everything. You can enjoy a handful as a snack, or sprinkle them on fruit, cereal, yogurt, salads and cooked vegetables. Or, add almonds to rice and other grain dishes to add crunchy texture, great taste and a nutritional boost."
Many nuts are high in important nutrients. A one-and-a-half ounce handful of almonds, for example, is a leading source of vitamin E and magnesium and offers protein, fiber, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and iron in 246 calories. Moreover, almonds and other nuts contain phytochemicals – plant components that may provide powerful protection against heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases. The following nuts are included in the new claim: almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts and peanuts.