According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) is the number one cause of deaths across the globe, and in India. CVD is also a costly disease to treat and can cause a huge economic burden on the patient, and his/her family.
For India in particular, CVD has become a severe cause of concern, owing to the disease's accelerated buildup, early age of onset in the population and the high case fatality rate. Some factors that have contributed to the rise of CVD cases across India include the south Asian genetic makeup and it's proneness to the disease, the ever changing lifestyle, lack of exercise, dietary imbalance and a high intake of saturated and/or trans fats amongst the population.
In the past, multiple studies have also shown that regular consumption of almonds may help reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL "bad") cholesterol levels, a recognized risk factor for CVD - especially amongst Indians.
A recent research by Tufts University shows that eating 42.5 grams of almonds each day compared to not eating almonds may help reduce healthcare costs associated with cardiovascular disease among US consumers.
The objective of this study, funded by the Almond Board of California, was to estimate the cost-effectiveness of almond consumption in preventing coronary heart disease through changes in LDL cholesterol levels in the U.S. population, using both short-term base case analysis and 10-year risk prevention. The researchers developed a model to assess the relationship between eating 42.5g of almonds per day versus no almond intake. CVD parameters included the probabilities of increasing LDL levels, developing acute myocardial infarction (MI, or heart attack), MI-related surgeries, and death due to the disease and surgeries and the cost of disease and procedures in the US population in 2012. The cost of almonds used in this research was also factored into the model and was based on price in the US market in 2012, as well.
The base-case model used in this research, which was a study of 150 US adults with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, showed that eating 42.5g of almonds per day would result in an annual cost savings of $363 compared to eating no almonds. The almond eaters had reductions in CVD risk factors including LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, body weight and Apoliprotein B (also known as Apo-B, the main protein found in harmful LDL cholesterol). These improved parameters decreased the average healthcare costs for treating CVD.
Speaking about the study, Regional Head-Dietetics, Max Healthcare - Delhi, Ritika Samaddar noted: "The study establishes a very positive correlation between almond consumption, heart health, and a derived cost benefit, each of which are relevant for a country like India where CVD cases are rising every day. While the health benefits of almonds have been analyzed by several other studies in the past, this new research also highlights a long term cost advantage of almond consumption which is very unique. So make sure to include almonds in your family and your diet, to lead a healthier and more cost efficient lifestyle."
When the time horizon was expanded to 10 years, findings were similar in pattern: it cost non-almond eaters $2566 in CVD prevention compared to a cost of just $1806 for almond eaters, or a savings of $760.
Sheela Krishnaswamy, Nutrition and Wellness Consultant said: "The results of this new study are interesting to note. Owing to the genetic makeup, sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary regime and high salt intake, Indians are at higher risk of heart disease. If one develops the disease, it adds to the household's medical expenses. Therefore, I suggest that people with a genetic history of CVD or those with established risk factors (high BP, diabetes, obesity etc.) for heart disease alter their diets to include a daily dose of almonds, among other things. In the long run, improving your lifestyle will have a positive impact not just on your heart health, but may also reduce overall medical expenses."
Based on these analyses, researchers concluded that consuming 42.5g of almonds per day is a cost-effective strategy for preventing CVD in short term and potentially, up to 10 years.
Acknowledging the findings in the study, Madhuri Ruia, Pilates Expert and Diet & Nutrition Consultant commented: "It is interesting to note the long term viability of this study, especially in context of a country like India where CVD is one of the leading causes of mortality. Opting for healthier snacking options like almonds, is a small yet impactful investment that is sure to pay off in the long run, especially for people with high risk to CVD. So the next time you head to the supermarket, stock up on roasted, salted or raw almonds instead of unwholesome or fried snacks, to begin your journey towards a healthier lifestyle."