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Almond Snacking for 8 wk Increases Alpha-Diversity of the Gastrointestinal Microbiome and Decreases Bacteroides fragilis Abundance Compared with an Isocaloric Snack in College Freshmen.

Abstract

Background

Changes in gut microbiota are associated with cardiometabolic disorders and are influenced by diet. Almonds are a rich source of fiber, unsaturated fats, and polyphenols, all nutrients that can favorably alter the gut microbiome.

Objectives

The aim of this study was to examine the effects of 8 wk of almond snacking on the gut (fecal) microbiome diversity and abundance compared with an isocaloric snack of graham crackers in college freshmen.

Methods

A randomized, controlled, parallel-arm, 8-wk intervention in 73 college freshmen (age: 18-19 y; 41 women and 32 men; BMI: 18-41 kg/m2) with no cardiometabolic disorders was conducted. Participants were randomly allocated to either an almond snack group (56.7 g/d; 364 kcal; n = 38) or graham cracker control group (77.5 g/d; 338 kcal/d; n = 35). Stool samples were collected at baseline and 8 wk after the intervention to assess primary microbiome outcomes, that is, gut microbiome diversity and abundance.

Results

Almond snacking resulted in 3% greater quantitative alpha-diversity (Shannon index) and 8% greater qualitative alpha-diversity (Chao1 index) than the cracker group after the intervention (< 0.05). Moreover, almond snacking for 8 wk decreased the abundance of the pathogenic bacterium Bacteroides fragilis by 48% (overall relative abundance, < 0.05). Permutational multivariate ANOVA showed significant time effects for the unweighted UniFrac distance and Bray-Curtis beta-diversity methods (< 0.05; R 2 ≤ 3.1%). The dietary and clinical variables that best correlated with the underlying bacterial community structure at week 8 of the intervention included dietary carbohydrate (percentage energy), dietary fiber (g), and fasting total and HDL cholesterol (model Spearman rho = 0.16; P = 0.01).

Conclusions

Almond snacking for 8 wk improved alpha-diversity compared with cracker snacking. Incorporating a morning snack in the dietary regimen of predominantly breakfast-skipping college freshmen improved the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT03084003.

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