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Energy extraction from nuts: walnuts, almonds, pistachios.

McArthur, B., R. Mattes, 2020. Energy extraction from nuts: walnuts, almonds, pistachios. Br J Nutr. 123(4):361-371.

The bioaccessibility of fat has implications for satiety and postprandial lipidemia. The prevailing view holds that the integrity of plant cell wall structure is the primary determinant of energy and nutrient extraction from plant cells as they pass through the gastrointestinal tract. However, comparisons across nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios) with varying physical properties do not support this view. In this study, masticated samples of three nuts from healthy adults were exposed to a static model of gastric digestion followed by simulated intestinal digestion. Primary outcomes were particle size and lipid release at each phase of digestion. Walnuts produced a significantly larger particle size post-mastication compared to almonds. Under gastric and intestinal conditions, the particle size was larger for walnuts compared to pistachios and almonds (P<0.05). However, the masticated and digesta particle sizes were not related to the integrity of cell walls nor lipid release. The total lipid release was comparable between nuts after the in vitro intestinal phase (P>0.05). Microstructural examination showed ruptured and fissured cell walls that would allow digestion of cellular contents and this may be governed by internal cellular properties such as oil body state. Furthermore, the cell walls of walnuts tend to rupture rather than separate and as walnut tissue passes through the gastrointestinal track, lipids tend to coalesce reducing digestion efficiency.