Friday, November 03, 2006

US: almond growers hope nuts help with weight loss

The almonds are off the trees and the harvest has been very good, growers say. But abundance is not the only good news about our region's most notable nut. Almonds, it turns out, can help control your weight. Two studies suggest almonds contribute to a feeling of fullness. Another word for that is "satiety" — and finding foods that create that effect has been called "the holy grail of nutrition" because something that make you feel full can help in the ever-widening worldwide fight against obesity.

The North American Association for the Study of Obesity reported at its annual meeting last month that eating "a handful or two" of almonds every day can calm your appetite. Why isn't precisely known, but another study — this one funded by the Modesto-based Almond Board of California — has found similar results. In that study, conducted at Purdue University in Indiana, 20 overweight women were given two servings of almonds a day — totaling about 300calories — for 10 weeks. Another group got no nuts (too bad for them).

At the end of the study, researchers found that the women given the nuts did not gain any weight — despite having eaten an additional 300 calories every day for 10 weeks. In other words, by eating the healthy almonds they were less likely to turn to less healthy foods such as pizza, pretzels and chips.

That almonds provide health benefits is exciting news to the area's almond growers — as if they needed any more good news. Almonds were worth $473 million in Stanislaus County alone, and more than $1 billion statewide in 2005. This year's crop — which growers are saying is "very, very good" — is likely to be of similar value. With consumption of almonds growing every year, the good news just keeps blossoming.

But there's a bit of a conundrum involved with this latest research. Those who grow food generally want you to eat more of it — not less. So isn't a food that makes you feel full after eating only a little sort of defeating the purpose? Would you continue to buy that "can a week" if you're not going to finish it?

Our area's almond growers certainly hope so.

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