Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003 Nov;27(11):1365-72. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802411.


Objective: To evaluate the effect of an almond-enriched (high monounsaturated fat, MUFA) or complex carbohydrate-enriched (high carbohydrate) formula-based low-calorie diet (LCD) on anthropometric, body composition and metabolic parameters in a weight reduction program.

Design: A randomized, prospective 24-week trial in a free-living population evaluating two distinct macronutrient interventions on obesity and metabolic syndrome-related parameters during weight reduction.

Subjects: In total, 65 overweight and obese adults (age: 27-79 y, body mass index (BMI): 27-55 kg/m(2)).

Intervention: A formula-based LCD enriched with 84 g/day of almonds (almond-LCD; 39% total fat, 25% MUFA and 32% carbohydrate as percent of dietary energy) or self-selected complex carbohydrates (CHO-LCD; 18% total fat, 5% MUFA and 53% carbohydrate as percent of dietary energy) featuring equivalent calories and protein.

Main outcome measurements: Various anthropometric, body composition and metabolic parameters at baseline, during and after 24 weeks of dietary intervention.

Results: LCD supplementation with almonds, in contrast to complex carbohydrates, was associated with greater reductions in weight/BMI (-18 vs -11%), waist circumference (WC) (-14 vs -9%), fat mass (FM) (-30 vs -20%), total body water (-8 vs -1%) and systolic blood pressure (-11 vs 0%), P=0.0001-0.05. A 62% greater reduction in weight/BMI, 50% greater reduction in WC and 56% greater reduction in FM were observed in the almond-LCD as compared to the CHO-LCD intervention. Ketone levels increased only in the almond-LCD group (+260 vs 0%, P<0.02). High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) increased in the CHO-LCD group and decreased in the almond-LCD group (+15 vs -6%, P=0.05). Glucose, insulin, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and LDL-C to HDL-C ratio decreased significantly to a similar extent in both dietary interventions. Homeostasis model analysis of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) decreased in both study groups over time (almond-LCD: -66% and CHO-LCD: -35%, P<0.0001). Among subjects with type 2 diabetes, diabetes medication reductions were sustained or further reduced in a greater proportion of almond-LCD as compared to CHO-LCD subjects (96 vs 50%, respectively) [correction].

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that an almond-enriched LCD improves a preponderance of the abnormalities associated with the metabolic syndrome. Both dietary interventions were effective in decreasing body weight beyond the weight loss observed during long-term pharmacological interventions; however, the almond-LCD group experienced a sustained and greater weight reduction for the duration of the 24-week intervention. Almond supplementation of a formula-based LCD is a novel alternative to self-selected complex carbohydrates and has a potential role in reducing the public health implications of obesity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Composition
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Food, Formulated*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diet therapy
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prunus*
  • Satiation
  • Weight Loss


  • Dietary Carbohydrates