The Impact of Almonds and Almond Processing On Gastrointestinal Physiology, Luminal Microbiology and Gastrointestinal Symptoms: a Randomized Controlled Trial and Mastication Study

Alice C Creedon, Eirini Dimidi, Estella S Hung, Megan Rossi, Christopher Probert, Terri Grassby, Jesus Miguens-Blanco, Julian R Marchesi, S Mark Scott, Sarah E Berry, Kevin Whelan

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Almonds contain lipid, fiber and polyphenols and possess physicochemical properties that impact nutrient bioaccessibility, which are hypothesized to impact gut physiology and microbiota.

OBJECTIVES: Investigate the impact of whole almonds and ground almonds (almond flour) on fecal bifidobacteria (primary outcome), gut microbiota composition and transit time.

DESIGN: Healthy adults (n = 87) participated in a parallel, 3-arm randomized controlled trial. Participants received whole almonds (56 g/d), ground almonds (56 g/d) or an isocaloric control muffin in place of habitual snacks for 4 weeks. Gut microbiota composition and diversity (16S rRNA gene sequencing), short-chain fatty acids (gas-chromatography), volatile organic compounds (gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry), gut transit time (wireless motility capsule), stool output and gut symptoms (7-day diary) were measured at baseline and endpoint. The impact of almond form on particle size distribution (PSD) and predicted lipid release was measured in a subgroup (n = 31).

RESULTS: Modified intention-to-treat analysis was performed on 79 participants. There were no significant differences in abundance of fecal bifidobacteria following consumption of whole almonds (8.7%, SD 7.7%), ground almonds (7.8%, SD 6.9%) or control (13.0%, SD 10.2%; q = 0.613). Consumption of almonds (whole and ground pooled) resulted in higher butyrate (24.1 μmol/g, SD 15.0 μmol/g) in comparison to control (18.2 μmol/g, SD 9.1 μmol/g; p = 0.046). There was no effect of almonds on gut microbiota at the phylum level or diversity, gut transit time, stool consistency or gut symptoms. Almond form (whole versus ground) had no effect on study outcomes. Ground almonds resulted in significantly smaller PSD and higher predicted lipid release (10.4%, SD 1.8%) in comparison to whole almonds (9.3%, SD 2.0%; p = 0.017).

CONCLUSIONS: Almond consumption has limited impact on gut microbiota composition but increases butyrate concentrations in adults, suggesting positive alterations to microbiota functionality. Almonds can be incorporated into the diet to increase fiber consumption without triggering gut symptoms. Clinical trial registry: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier - NCT03581812.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe American journal of clinical nutrition
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Sept 2022

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