Scientific progress in understanding the human gut microbiome thrills experts in nutrition and gastrointestinal health. Researchers know that diet affects the gut microbiome in ways that benefit health and disease prevention, but they are still discovering the mechanisms of how this happens. New almond research may add another piece to the puzzle.
A clinical study investigated how gut microbes break down almonds to produce butyrate, a specific microbiota product associated with several health benefits.
New research 1 found that consuming almonds significantly increases butyrate, a type of beneficial short- chain fatty acid (SCFA), in the colon. Butyrate, which is produced by microbes in the gut when they digest fiber, is the primary fuel source for colonocytes, the cells that line the colon, and may play a role in multiple processes related to human health, including improving sleep quality and fighting inflammation, and has been associated with a lower risk of colon cancer 2 , 3 .
Almond consumption also significantly increases stool output. Regular stool output is associated with a well-functioning gastrointestinal system.
A team of researchers led by Professor Kevin Whelan from King’s College London, set out to determine the impact whole almonds and ground almonds have on the composition of gut microbiota, gut microbiota diversity and gut transit time. 4 The study was funded by the Almond Board of California.
“Part of the way in which the gut microbiota impact human health is through the production of short-
chain fatty acids, such as butyrate. These molecules act as a fuel source for cells in the colon, they
regulate absorption of other nutrients in the gut, and they help balance the immune system,” explained
Kevin Whelan, PhD, RD, Professor of Dietetics, King’s College London.
In this trial, researchers recruited 87 healthy adult participants, males and females, aged 18 to 45 years,
who described themselves as regular snackers enjoying 2 or more snacks daily. Participants were
consuming a typical diet that was lower in fiber than recommended and screened extensively for
exclusion criteria. Each group comprised 29 participants; group one received 56 g/day (about 2 oz./day)
of whole almonds, group two 56 g/day (about 2 oz./day) of ground almonds (almond flour), and the