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A Cost-effective Way To Combat Heart Disease


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 study was funded by the Almond Board of California.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization, claiming nearly 18 million lives each year, including in the United States.

CVD is also a costly disease to treat and is a huge economic burden. In the UK, for example, CVD was estimated to cost the UK economy €26 billion in 2015. Of the total cost of CVD in the UK, €12 billion (46%) came from direct health care costs.

This new research joins multiple studies showing that regular consumption of almonds may help reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL “bad”) cholesterol levels, a recognised risk factor for CVDs.

The objective of this study 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 U.S. population in 2012.

The cost of almonds used in this research was also factored into the model and was based on price in the U.S. market in 2012.

The base-case model used in this research, was a study of 150 US adults with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, which 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.

When the time horizon was expanded to 10 years, findings were similar in pattern: Per Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY; life-year adjusted for quality of life) it cost non-almond eaters $2566 in CVD prevention compared to a cost of just $1806 for almond eaters, or a savings of $760.

Based on these analyses, researchers concluded that consuming 1.5 ounces of almonds per day is a cost-effective strategy for preventing CVD in short term and potentially, up to 10 years.