Study: Snacking on Almonds a Healthy Alternative for Breakfast-Skipping Students

August 16, 2018

Independence: It’s what many students value most about the transition to college life. But the freedom to make decisions without interference from parents can lead to unhealthy eating habits.

There’s the dreaded “Freshman 15” — the 15 pounds that students purportedly gain during their first year of college. Though data suggests that the number is exaggerated, studies show that the transition to college is associated with a modest — but real — weight gain of 2 to 6 pounds. Studies also show that up to 43 percent of college freshmen skip breakfast, which can adversely affect metabolic health, academic performance and lead to unhealthy snacking habits down the road.

UC Merced metabolism experts Professor Rudy Ortiz and postdoctoral fellow Jaapna Dhillon decided to look into whether almonds could combat college students’ unhealthy eating habits — like skipping breakfast and noshing on junk food — and improve metabolic outcomes.

Ortiz and Dhillon recruited 73 UC Merced students age 18-19 and randomly assigned them to two groups. One group snacked on almonds and wasn’t allowed to eat crackers or other types of nuts. The second group snacked on graham crackers and wasn’t allowed to eat any kind of nut. Ortiz monitored key metabolic indicators in both groups over the course of eight weeks.

“The majority of participants in both groups admitted skipping breakfast,” Ortiz said. “One of our goals was to assess the potential impact of almonds as a morning snack for breakfast skippers.”

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