fitness · research

Sometimes you feel like a nut: the latest on almonds and appetite

CW: mention of articles talking about eating and weight loss.

Nutrition and metabolic scientists are working hard, and they’re working on a really hard problem: what are the effects of eating various foods/beverages on important features of human functioning? I’ve written in detail and with great relish about the swinging research pendulum on the egg question. Tracy has written about coffee and what science has to say about its effects on us. Christine’s even done experimentation on herself in service of our need to know about hydration. Thanks, Christine!

Some of those hard-working scientists came out with results of a study on eating almonds.

They were wondering whether eating some almonds before a meal (vs. eating a snack bar) would provoke what’s called early satiety– feeling full sooner– during the meal. They were going to measure this in three ways:

  1. release of appetite-regulating hormones
  2. self-reported lowered appetite
  3. reduced short-term food consumption, i.e. eating less at the meal

Turns out, despite the fact that 1) happened– the appetite-regulating hormones got released, 2) and 3) didn’t. That is, people didn’t report lowered appetite and they didn’t eat appreciably less at the post-almond-snack meal than they did at the post-snack-bar meal (690 vs. 761 calories on average, which was not statistically significant).

Oh well. Thanks anyway.
Oh well. Thanks anyway.

In all seriousness, what they found was pretty interesting. At the metabolic level, the almonds did their job– provoking release of appetite-lowering hormones. But the effect didn’t migrate up to the conscious awareness level or the behavioral level. Which isn’t a bad or a good thing– it’s just a science thing.

And it spurred some good directions for future research like:

  1. looking for different appetite-release patterns in people with different BMIs (their test group had BMI 27.5–34.9)
  2. looking for longer-term behaviors and weight change and maintenance patterns
  3. looking for favorable metabolic effects in diabetic populations

Yes, this research was done in part because nutrition science wants to find ways to bring about weight loss and maintenance of the results of weight loss. We’ve written a lot-a-lot about this, taking issue with the uniform imperative towards lower weights across almost all BMI categories.

Usually when I write these posts about new research, they’re accompanied by sensationalized and distorted media accounts of the results. This study doesn’t disappoint. Here’s what a google search yielded:

Just a few of the many news articles that got it wrong– this study doesn’t show that eating almonds before a meal will result in eating fewer calories.

So what are we left with? I learned some things about what a nice food almonds are for the body (I mean by reading– I wasn’t in the study!). Also, trying snack selection strategies to distract us from eating by pre-feeding us may not work. Which is okay. Eating is a complex business at every level– from the social to the behavioral to the metabolic.

So, how to decide whether to eat almonds at any given time? I leave you with advice from a 1978 commercial that I remember well from my youth. In short, sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.

Hey readers? Do you like almonds? Do you use them for snacking? For taking the edge off before a meal? Do you remember this commercial. Just curious…

2 thoughts on “Sometimes you feel like a nut: the latest on almonds and appetite

  1. Great article. I remember the commercial 🙂 We eat a ton of almonds around here. And cashews and walnuts. I do find them to be good snacks. A handful works if I feel hungry but not very hungry and they taste great, protein, all that jazz..

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