Almonds: Crack the Satiety Nut
Looking to science to discover the “Satisfaction Bang”
Formulators looking for an approach to provide consumers with products that maximize the “satisfaction bang” to keep them feeling full longer should look to science for the answer. The approach to measuring satisfaction is called satiety, and it’s capturing the attention of researchers and of product developers, who see it as a model for responsible—and successful—product development. As developers hunt for ingredients to put the principles of satiety into practice, they’d do well to consider almonds.
As a leading investigator in the field of appetite regulation, John Blundell, chair of psychobiology at the University of Leeds (Leeds, UK), knows that tackling weight management involves, at its core, controlling appetite and thus, energy intake. This would be difficult enough to achieve if our only reason for eating was the biological drive to fuel our bodies.
But, as Blundell noted his 2015 IFT presentation, “Appetites and Applications: Satiety’s Influence on New Product Trends and Development,” that’s not the only reason we eat.1 We eat because doing so brings pleasure.1 And for those inclined to overeat, it may bring so much pleasure that they find it difficult to stop even after they’ve gotten the requisite nutrition.1 In addition this pleasure establishes and then holds in place strong food habits that determine food selection.1 However, Blundell noted, “Food can be part of the solution.”
Two Processes in One
And that’s where satiety comes in. The concept is familiar to food industry professionals who’ve encountered it in discussions, symposia, trade shows and publications. Yet satiety remains somewhat misunderstood, perhaps because it’s the result of a complex cascade of signaling events comprising sensory, cognitive and physiological input.
In fact, said Blundell, “What we refer to as satiety is actually two separate processes.”
First, there’s the process of satiation, which is what happens over the course of a single eating occasion as fast-acting biological signals from the stomach, upper intestine and oral cavity tell the brain, “We’re full; this meal is complete.” Over the longer term, postprandial satiety kicks in “when eating ends and suppresses hunger, increases fullness and deters eating in the post-ingestive period,” Blundell explained.
The food attributes that Blundell and colleagues have identified as influencing satiety include the obvious sensory ones—taste, smell, shape, color and texture—as well as nutritional aspects like energy value and macronutrient composition.1 In addition, the food’s weight and volume and more ephemeral qualities, such as the eater’s beliefs and expectations about the eating experience, are considered.1
To be sure, the cumulative impact of these factors might seem beyond the capability of even the finest-tuned methods to compute. But Blundell contends that satiety “can be sensitively measured by the amount of food eaten and changes in hunger and fullness, under scientifically controlled conditions.” In other words, satiety is real, it’s quantifiable—and it’s within our ability to influence.
Opportunity and Obligation
Indeed, “the food industry has an opportunity and an obligation to develop food with high satiety potential,” Blundell declared.
And companies can do so via several strategies. One approach, he said, is to intensify satiation, allowing a consumer to hit a benchmark for intra-meal satiety but at a reduced caloric expenditure.1 Another is to bolster postprandial satiety, extending the suppression of hunger following a meal per the same calories consumed.1 A third is simply to reduce the digestibility of the food itself, which keeps total energy intake down.1
Ultimately, the question facing product developers, Blundell concluded, is “How can the effects of foods be technically modified to produce improved satiation or satiety—or, what foods can be identified that have natural favorable properties for acting on satiation or satiety?”
As it happens, the almond provides answers to both questions, making it a prime candidate for satiety-centered formulation.
Strong Cellular Structure
To understand why the almond so suits satiety, it helps to know what those “natural favorable properties” for promoting satiety are. Blundell noted that in addition to the weight and volume of the food eaten, “evidence indicates the importance of energy density, protein content, fiber content and texture.”
That last property, in particular, seems critical, as texture “changes oral exposure time and influences satiation,” lowering the “self-determined amount of energy consumed,” Blundell said.
“What that means for product developers is that foods with optimal texture, like almonds, may help carry a formulation to satiety success. Research suggests almonds’ cellular structure yields a unique crunch that not only appeals to consumers and enhances a product’s textural assets, but may have a positive effect on satiety,” notes Guangwei Huang, associate director, food research and technology, Almond Board of California.
And this isn’t just speculation. A crossover study by Cassady, Mattes et al. (2009)—examining the effects of almond chewing on hunger and fullness in 13 healthy adults—found that snacks requiring more mastication may also promote satiety.2 During a four-day test period, participants chewed 55g of almonds 10, 20 or 40 times.
Specifically, Huang explained, “For all three almond-chewing groups in the study, hunger fell below baseline levels and fullness surpassed baseline levels. And the longer that almonds were chewed, the fuller and less hungry the participants felt for two hours after eating the almonds.”
Although the study was short term, it suggests that almonds’ cellular structure may play a role in promoting fullness.
Speaking of energy and nutrients, almonds combine both, and with potentially fewer calories than previously thought. A study by Novotny et al. (2012) found that the true measured caloric value of a serving of almonds is 20% lower than what the label previously stated.3
In the study, 18 healthy adults consumed either a controlled nut-free diet or an almond-containing diet (providing 1.5 or 3oz per day) in a crossover design for 18 days.3 Analysis of the participants’ diets and samples collected during the final nine days of each treatment determined the metabolizable energy of the almonds to be only 129 kcal/ounce, not the 168-170 kcal/ounce calculated using the traditional Atwater coefficients for protein, fat and carbohydrates.3 Further research is needed to better understand the results of the study and how this technique for calculating calories could potentially affect the calorie count of the foods and other nutrient values listed for that food.
But if almonds deliver less energy than thought, might that compromise their power to satiate? Not according to multiple studies that consistently reveal time and time again almonds’ satiating benefits.
For example, Tan and Mattes (2013) found that about 1.5oz—or 250 kcals-worth—of almonds consumed at breakfast, lunch, or as a snack, helped study subjects (137 healthy adults who were at risk of type 2 diabetes) consume less later in the day.4 In fact, daylong ratings of hunger and desire to eat were significantly reduced in the combined (mid-morning + mid-afternoon) snack groups and the combined (breakfast + lunch) meal groups relative to the control group, with the most pronounced reductions observed when almonds were consumed as a snack.
Despite the consumption of 250 calories from the 1.5oz serving of almonds daily, body weight did not increase among participants, which researchers suggest may be due to energy compensation in the diet and through inefficient energy absorption.
“Even better, the study was able to show that the participants’ almond consumption did not lead to weight gain nor increased daily intake over the study’s four-week duration—suggesting that almonds may be a smart snack option for those hoping to boost satiety,” said Blundell.
The search for smart snack options will only increase as more Americans shift from three meals-a-day to a grazing model that leans on grabbing quick bites throughout the day. A randomized, crossover study by Hull, Re et al. (2014) found no significant differences in total daily energy intake between two groups of 32 healthy female subjects (aged 35 and older) who snacked at midmorning on 1oz of almonds, 1.5oz of almonds no snack at all.5 Ratings of appetite and fullness were dose-dependent, with participants reporting being the least hungry when eating 1.5oz of almonds, and the hungriest on the day when they didn’t eat almonds. These results suggest that the subjects naturally compensated for the calories in their almond snack by curtailing consumption later in the day.
Although the study just looked at the impact of one day’s meals and did not control for habitual almond intake, the studies suggest that snacking on nutrient-rich almonds may improve satiety and help control cravings.5
Setting aside all the satiety cards stacked in almonds’ favor, it merits noting that these nuts are, and always have been, nutrient-rich. Ounce for ounce, almonds top tree nuts as the highest in protein (6mg/oz.), fiber, antioxidant vitamin E, calcium (75mg/oz.), riboflavin and niacin (1mg/oz.)* This is no small matter given that nutrient density is critical to satiety—and that protein, fiber and fat are three key nutrients generating keen interest among those hoping to formulate more satiety into American diets.
Product developers will be happy to know that almonds come in a number of types, sizes and forms that can help them achieve their development goals. Whether that means slivers for texture, slices for eye appeal, flour for mouthfeel or whole roasted almonds for pure pleasure, it’s no overstatement to say that almonds are built for satisfaction, guaranteed.
1. Blundell, JE, Rogers, PJ & Hill, AJ 1987. Evaluating the satiating power of foods: implications for acceptance and consumption. in J Colms, DA Booth, RM Pangborn & O Raunhardt (eds), Food acceptance and nutrition. , pp. 205 - 219.
2. Cassady BA1, Hollis JH, Fulford AD, Considine RV, Mattes RD. Mastication of almonds: effects of lipid bioaccessibility, appetite, and hormone response. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009 Mar;89(3):794-800. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26669. Epub 2009 Jan 14.
3. Novotny JA, et a. Discrepancy between the Atwater factor predicted and empirically measured energy values of almonds in human diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012; 96(2):296-301.
4. Tan YT, Mattes RD. Appetitive, dietary and health effects of almonds consumed with meals or as snacks: a randomized, controlled trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013; 67: 1205-14.
5. Hull S, Re R, Chambers L, Echaniz A, Wickham SJ. A mid-morning snack generates satiety and appropriate adjustment of subsequent food intake in healthy women. European of Clinical Nutrition 2014; DOI 10.1007/s00394-014-0759-z.
*One serving of almonds (28g) has 13g of unsaturated fat and only 1g of saturated fat.