Almonds: Nutrition & Health Benefits

Post 8572

Almonds: Nutrition & Health Benefits

The edible part of an almond that we call a nut is actually a seed.

Credit: Svetlana Lukienko | Shutterstock

Almonds are the most popular nuts in the United States. A favorite of dieters, in recent years almonds have become famous for their versatility and health benefits.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans’ demand for almonds has increased over 400 percent since 1980. In 2016, Americans ate an average of 1.8 lbs. (816 grams) of almonds each.

There’s good reason for the love affair. “Almonds have been studied extensively for their benefits on heart health, diabetes, and weight management,” said Jenny Heap, a registered dietitian with the Almond Board of California. “The unique nutrient combination of almonds — plant-based protein, fiber and monounsaturated fats, plus key nutrients likevitamin E and magnesium — help make them a heart-healthy snack.”

A 2017 study published in Nutrition Journal found that Americans, especially children, who replaced snack foods with almonds or other tree nuts saw a major increase in consumption of nutrients. In the study of more than 17,000 children and adults, participants swapped all their snacks with almonds and. Researchers found that participants consumed fewer empty calories, solid fats, sodium, saturated fats, carbohydrates and added sugars. Good oils and fats increased significantly, as did magnesium, fiber and protein by a small margin.

Technically speaking, almonds are not true nuts at all. The edible part that we call a nut is actually a seed, and almonds themselves are drupes, according to the University of California Riverside‘s botany department. Sometimes called “stone fruits,” drupes are characterized by a tough rind surrounding a shell that holds a seed. Peaches and apricots, close cousins to the almond, are common examples of drupes. Like these relatives, almonds grow on beautiful, flowering trees and thrive in warm, dry climates.

The almond tree (Prunus dulcis), also related to cherries and plums, is native to Western Asia and Southern Europe. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Spanish missionaries brought almonds to the New World, but the nut’s popularity did not rise until the 1900s. Today, the United States is the largest supplier of almonds in the world. California is the only state that produces almonds commercially. This may change, though, as the water supply in California declines.

“Ounce for ounce, almonds are higher in fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin than any other tree nut,” Heap told Live Science. “Every one-ounce serving (about 23 almonds) provides 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, plus vitamin E (35 percent DV [daily value]), magnesium (20 percent DV), riboflavin (20 percent DV), calcium (8 percent DV) and potassium (6 percent DV). In addition, almonds are a low-glycemic index food.”

Like other nuts, almonds contain a fairly high amount of fat, with about 14 grams per one-ounce serving. Fortunately, about two-thirds of it is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, according to The George Mateljan Foundation’s World’s Healthiest Foods website.

A 2005 study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that almonds pack the biggest nutritional punch if eaten whole, with their brown skins on (unblanched), rather than with their skins steamed off (blanched). The study identified 20 powerful antioxidant flavonoids in almond skin. Combined with the high vitamin E content in the meat of the almond, these flavonoids endow almonds with a unique nutritional package that may have implications for cholesterol levels, inflammation and more.

Here are the nutrition facts for almonds, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food labeling through the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act:

Almonds, blanched. Serving size: 1 ounce (28 g)
Calories 163; Calories from Fat 119
*Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Amt per Serving %DV* Amt per Serving %DV*
Total Fat 14g 22% Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%   Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Sodium 8mg 0%    Sugars 1g
Protein 6g
Vitamin A 0% Calcium 6%
Vitamin C 0% Iron 6%


Probably almonds’ best-known quality is that they are good for your heart. “Nearly two decades of research shows that almonds can help maintain a healthy heart and healthy cholesterol levels,” said Heap. A 2009 article inThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) looked at the evidence on nut consumption and a variety of health issues. It noted that in four large-scale studies considered major in the field — the Iowa Women’s Health Study (1996), the Adventist Health Study (1992), the Nurses’ Health Study(1998) and the Physicians’ Health Study(2002) — nut consumption was linked to a lower risk for heart disease. Together, the studies showed an average reduction in the risk of death from heart disease by 37 percent, or “8.3 percent … for each weekly serving of nuts.”

“A growing body of evidence suggests that regularly choosing almonds in place of snacks high in refined carbohydrates is a simple dietary strategy to help support heart health,” said Heap. In another evidence review, published in 1999 in Current Atherosclerosis Reports, researchers looked at the Nurses’ Health Study and estimated that eating nuts instead of an equivalent amount of carbohydrates reduced heart disease risk by 30 percent. Substituting nuts for saturated fats, such as those found in meat and dairy products, resulted in a 45 percent estimated reduced risk.

Replacing almonds with saturated fats may also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. A 1994 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at men with normal cholesterol levels and found that those who supplemented their diets with almonds for three weeks saw a 10 percent reduction in LDL levels.

A 2017 study published in Journal of Nutrition looked at 82 people with high LDL cholesterol. For six weeks, they ate a low-cholesterol diet that included one-third of a cup of almonds or a muffin with the same number of calories. Then, participants switched diets for another six weeks. Researchers found that the almond diet led to better distribution of HDL cholesterol subtypes and more effective cholesterol removal. These effects, however, were only seen in participants at a normal weight.

A serving of almonds provides 5 percent of the recommended daily value of potassium, which is necessary for heart health, according to theAmerican Heart Association. Many studies have linked potassium with lower blood pressure because it promotes vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), according to Today’s Dietitian. The magazine article cited a study of 12,000 adults, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, which showed that those who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium each day lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease and ischemic heart disease by 37 percent and 49 percent, respectively, compared to those who took 1,793 mg per day.

Magnesium is also essential for heart health. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, some doctors have seen positive results from giving patients who have suffered from heart failure doses of magnesium. There also may be a link between lower heart disease risk in men and intake of magnesium.

Heap noted that in 2003, the FDA approved “a qualified health claim recognizing that California almonds may help reduce the risk of heart disease.” The official statement said:

“Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving of almonds (28g) has 13g of unsaturated fat and only 1g of saturated fat.”

Almonds may even be good for those suffering from hyperlipidemia (excess lipids or lipoproteins in the blood). These patients used to be instructed to stay away from nuts because of their fat content, but a study published in 2002 in the journal Circulation showed that hyperlipidemic patients who ate almonds as snacks actually saw significant reductions in heart disease risk factors.

Weight loss and preventing weight gain

“With their combination of protein, fiber, good fats and satisfying crunch, almonds are a smart snack option to help keep hunger at bay while satisfying cravings,” said Heap. While she noted that “numerous studies have shown that choosing almonds as a daily snack does not lead to changes in body weight,” substituting them for other snacks may help dieters. A 2003 study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders suggested that combining almonds with a low-calorie, high-monounsaturated fat diet led to more weight loss than did a low-calorie diet with lots of complex carbohydrates. Another recent study, published in 2015 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at substituting almonds for a muffin of the same caloric value and found that though participants did not lose weight in either group, the almond-eating group saw a reduction in abdominal fat, waist circumference and fat on the legs, as well as improved LDL cholesterol levels.

Almonds can also be a more satisfying snack than high-carb counterparts. “Their combination of protein, fiber, and good fats makes them a satisfying snack choice that can help keep you from reaching for empty calorie choices between meals,” said Heap. “In fact, a recent study showed that women who ate a mid-morning snack of 1-1.5 ounces of almonds felt more satisfied and ate fewer calories at subsequent meals.”

As if that weren’t good enough news, almonds may also help prevent weight gain. A five-year study conducted by Loma Linda Universityresearchers and published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2017 found that people who ate nuts, including almonds, regularly were more likely to stop gaining wait and at a 5 percent lower risk of becoming overweight or obese. The study evaluated more than 73,000 Europeans between the ages of 25 and 70 and found that, while most participants gained an average of 2.1 kilograms over five years, those who regularly ate nuts gained less weight. The lead researcher, Dr. Joan Sabate, suggested that people replace the animal protein on the center of their plates with nuts.

Additionally, a Spanish study published in 2007 in the journal Obesityfound that over the course of 28 months, participants who ate nuts twice a week were 31 percent less likely to gain wait than were participants who never or rarely ate nuts.

Almond trees bloom between late February and early March.
Almond trees bloom between late February and early March.

Credit: Jerocflores Shutterstock

Good for gluten-free dieters

“Almonds are naturally gluten-free, and are a versatile, nutrient-rich addition to gluten-free diets,” said Heap. “Because gluten-free diets can be low in iron, fiber, B vitamins and protein, and high in saturated fat and sugar, it is important to help fill these gaps and optimize nutrition. All forms of almonds, including almond flour, almond milk and almond butter, are excellent additions for those choosing a gluten-free lifestyle.”


According to the AJCN review of nuts and health outcomes, the links between nut consumption and diabetes risk and symptoms are less clear than with heart disease. Nevertheless, the Nurses’ Health Study showed an inverse relationship between regular consumption of nuts and diabetes, as did the Shanghai Women’s Health Study (2008).

Additionally, there is some evidence that almonds can be helpful in regulating blood sugar levels. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition looked at giving participants controlled meals based either around almonds, rice, potatoes or bread. Researchers found that participants’ blood sugar and insulin decreased after eating the almond meal but not the others. Also, antioxidants in the blood increased after the almond meal, while they decreased after the other meals.

Almonds may also help lower the glycemic index of a high-glycemic meal. A 2007 study, published in the journal Metabolism, looked at combining almonds and bread-based meals. The more almonds participants ate, the lower the meal’s glycemic index became and the less the participants’ blood sugar levels rose. Eating three ounces of almonds with the bread-based meal lowered the meal’s glycemic index to less than half of that of the bread-only meal.


These tasty tree nuts can help you get moving. They are a very good source of energy-encouragers riboflavin, manganese and copper. Riboflavin is also known as vitamin B2, and it helps produce red blood cells and release energy from the carbohydrates you eat, according to theNational Institutes of Health. Manganese and copper are components in an enzyme that stops free radicals in mitochondria, where our cells produce energy, according to World’s Healthiest Foods. In this way, these trace minerals help maintain your body’s energy flow.

Prevent gallstones

The fat and fiber content in almonds may help prevent gallstones by keeping your gallbladder and liver running smoothly. An analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study showed that frequent nut consumers were 25 percent less likely to need a cholecystectomy, a procedure to remove the gallbladder that is often done to treat gallstones. Another study, published in 2004 in the American Journal of Epidemiolgy found similar results in men, with frequent nut consumers seeing a 30 percent decreased risk in gallstone disease.


According to the AJCN nuts and health review, some studies suggest that there might be a relationship between nut consumption and reduced cancer risk in women, especially for colorectal and endometrial cancers, but these studies do not focus on almonds specifically. One animal study published in 2001 in Cancer Letters looked at whole-almond consumption in rats and found that those who ate almonds had fewer cancer cells in their colons.

A 2017 observational study of 826 patients with colon cancer found that those who ate two or more ounces of tree nuts, including almonds, a week “had a 42 percent lower chance of cancer recurrence and 57 percent lower chance of death than those who did not eat nuts,” according to the study, which was published in the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The researchers do not suggest replacing chemotherapy with tree nuts. “Rather, patients with colon cancer should be optimistic, and they should eat a healthy diet, including tree nuts, which may not only keep them healthier, but may also further decrease the chances of the cancer coming back.”

Additionally, the antioxidants and vitamin E in almonds may have cancer-fighting benefits, though the National Cancer Institute warns that results from studies examining antioxidants, vitamins and cancer are inconclusive.

In July and early August, almond hulls begin to split open to expose the almond shell.

In July and early August, almond hulls begin to split open to expose the almond shell.

Credit: Dolores Giraldez Alonso Shutterstock

It is possible to be allergic to almonds. An almond allergy is typically grouped with a tree nut allergy (including cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts and others), and is usually severe.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, tree nut allergies are among the allergies most likely to cause anaphylaxis. Symptoms of an almond allergy include abdominal pain, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, nasal congestion or a runny nose, nausea, shortness of breath, and itching. Both whole nuts and nut products, including oils and butters, can trigger an almond allergy attack.

Almonds are susceptible to aflatoxins, chemicals produced by molds that potentially can cause cancer. It is unsafe to eat almonds that are infected with mold, which appears as gray or black filaments. According to the Almond Board, the almond industry has programs and procedures to minimize aflatoxins.

In 2007, after cases of salmonella were traced to almonds, the U.S. Department of Agriculture mandated that California growers pasteurize their almonds. Since then, raw, untreated almonds grown in California have not been available. Almonds that are labeled as “raw” are actually pasteurized with steam or with propylene oxide. The practice is considered controversial, and organic farmers have sued the USDA, according to theCornucopia Institute.

A 2017 study by the University of Surrey found that people who regularly consume alternative milks, such as almond milk, instead of cow’s milk could be at risk for iodine deficiency. While almond milk is often supplemented with calcium to make it more closely match what cow’s milk provides, it is not supplemented with iodine. Iodine is essential for making thyroid hormones and for fetal brain development. The World health Organization considers iodine deficiency to be the world’s leading, and most preventable cause, of brain damage. Lack of iron during pregnancy can result in the baby having a lower IQ and trouble reading, according to the University of Surrey study.

Animals can apparently eat almonds safely, with some caveats. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there is no evidence that almonds or Brazil nuts are toxic to animals. However, the ASPCA cautions that eating large amounts can cause upset stomachs. Foods with high fat content, such as nuts, may produce pancreatitis. Also, many nuts are sold salted, and could pose a risk for the development of a sodium ion toxicosis.

  • The Romans considered almonds a fertility charm and gave them to newlyweds.
  • There are more than 30 varieties of almonds.
  • Many almond trees are not self-pollinating and depend on bees to carry pollen to one another.
  • The United States — primarily California — produces 83 percent of the world’s almonds, followed by Australia (7 percent), European Union (5 percent), and Iran, Turkey and Tunisia (all 1 percent).
  • Almonds should be stored in cool, dry conditions, away from direct sunlight and away from other foods with strong odors, which almonds can absorb.

City-Size Lunar Lava Tube Could House Future Astronaut Residents

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City-Size Lunar Lava Tube Could House Future Astronaut Residents

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City-Size Lunar Lava Tube Could House Future Astronaut Residents

A giant hole in the moon, which opens at the Marius Hills skylight (pictured here), was formed by an ancient lava tube.

Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

A city-size lava tube has been discovered on the moon, and researchers say it could serve as a shelter for lunar astronauts.

This lava tube could protect lunar-living astronauts from hazardous conditions on the moon’s surface, the researchers said. Such a tube could even harbor a lunar colony, they added.

“It’s important to know where and how big lunar lava tubes are if we’re ever going to construct a lunar base,” study co-researcher Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher at JAXA, Japan’s space agency, said in a statement. [How to Get to the Moon in 5 ‘Small’ Steps]

Humans first landed on the moon more than 48 years ago, but no one has managed to stay there for longer than three days. That’s because the moon is a perilous place. It has widely ranging temperatures, and unlike Earth, the moon does not have an atmosphere or magnetic field to protect life on its surface from harsh sun rays and radiation.

Spacesuits can’t substantially shield astronauts from these dangers over long periods of time, but a lava tube could potentially help protect any space travelers, the researchers said. Lava tubes are channels that form when a lava flow cools and develops a hard crust; this crust then thickens and makes a roof over a still-flowing lava stream, they explained. Once the lava stops flowing, the channel sometimes drains, leaving behind an empty tube.

Researchers want to study this lava tube because they “might get new types of rock samples, heat flow data and lunar quake observation data,” Haruyama said.

The tube was discovered when the Japanese lunar orbiter SELENE (Selenological and Engineering Explorer) — also known by its nickname, Kaguya — gathered data near the moon’s Marius Hills skylight, which is the tube’s entrance. When JAXA researchers later examined the data, they found a distinctive echo pattern: a decrease in echo intensity followed by a large second echo peak — signals that are largely suggestive of a hollow area, like a tube, they said.

The scientists also discovered comparable echo patterns at several places near the hole, indicating there may be more lunar tubes in the area.

However, SELENE wasn’t designed to fly close to the moon, so JAXA partnered with NASA scientists working on the GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) mission, a project that allows scientists to amass high-quality data on the moon’s gravitational field. Areas of the moon withgravity deficits — that is, less mass — could help indicate hollow places underneath, they reasoned.

“They knew about the skylight in the Marius Hills, but they didn’t have any idea how far that underground cavity might have gone,” study co-researcher Jay Melosh, a GRAIL co-investigator and distinguished professor of Earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at Purdue University, in Indiana, said in the statement. “Our group at Purdue used the gravity data over that area to infer that the opening was part of a larger system. By using this complementary technique of radar, they were able to figure out how deep and high the cavities are.” [Slideshow: 7 Everyday Things That Happen Strangely in Space]

Earth also has lava tubes, but they’re not nearly as large as the one discovered on the moon. If the scientists’ gravity analyses are correct, the lava tube near Marius Hills could easily house a large U.S. city such as Philadelphia, they said.

The city of Philadelphia could easily fit inside a theoretical lunar lava tube.

The city of Philadelphia could easily fit inside a theoretical lunar lava tube.

Credit: David Blair/Purdue University

Other scientists have speculated that the moon has lava tubes, but the new finding, which combines radar and gravity data, provides the best evidence and estimates of how big these tubes are, the researchers said.

This finding may go a long way: When meeting with the recently re-established National Space Council on Oct. 5, Vice President Mike Pencereiterated that the Trump administration will focus on sending astronauts to the moon rather than to Mars.

“The moon will be a stepping-stone, a training ground, a venue to strengthen our commercial and international partnerships as we refocus America’s space program toward human space exploration,” Pence said at the council meeting, according to a statement from the White House.

The study was published online Oct. 17 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Original article on Live Science.

Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

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Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

 Each week we find the most interesting and informative articles we can and along the way we uncover amazing and cool images. Here you’ll discover 10 incredible photos and the stories behind them.

An extraordinary find:


Amazing images and GIFs making the rounds on Twitter reveal little-known marine creatures.

[Full Story: Sea Lilies on Twitter Are Mesmerizing … And Not What They Seem]

Deeply-rooted protection:

An extraordinarily well-preserved fossil of a young sea turtle that lived 54 million years ago contains molecules of dark pigments that would have protected the animal from the sun.

[Full Story: 54-Million-Year-Old Baby Sea Turtle Had Built-In Sunscreen]

Not without a fight:

In a stunning frog photo recently shared widely from Reddit, a swallowed snake isn’t going down without a fight.

[Full Story: Snake Head Pops Out of Frog’s Maw in Mesmerizing Photo]

Travel to the past:

The VR experience will bring you face to face with one of the most famous wreck-diving sites in the world: the WWII SS Thistlegorm, which was sunk by German bombers in 1941 in the Red Sea.

[Full Story: VR Experience Takes You into Famed WWII Shipwreck]

End of an era:

Thousands of years ago, fallout from volcanic activity may have sounded a death knell for an Egyptian dynasty.

[Full Story: Volcanic Eruptions May Have Doomed an Ancient Egyptian Dynasty]

Far from home:

More than 4,000 years ago, ancient Egyptian artisans carved the likeness of a queen into a wooden statue and even bejeweled her highness with wooden earrings, according to a new discovery announced today by Egypt’s antiquities ministry.

[Full Story: Statue of Egyptian Queen Unearthed Near Giza Pyramids]

Odd creature:

Resembling a dainty tulip bloom or an elegant white-wine glass, the 500-million-year-old bottom-feeder looked uniquely ready for a romantic evening of sucking up microplankton along the seafloor.

[Full Story: Ancient Sea Creature Looked Like a Wine Glass, Died Alone]

Rocky finds:

The sprawling stone structures date back thousands of years and drape across old lava fields.

[Full Story: 400 Mysterious Ancient Stone Structures Discovered in Saudi Arabia]

A horrifying first:

Moments after a wild chimpanzee was born, an adult chimp snatched the infant away from its mother and cannibalized it, according to a new study that is the first to document this macabre behavior.

[Full Story: Infant Chimp Snatched and Cannibalized Moments After Its Birth]

Wondrous geology:

Photos of craggy rock and a time-lapse photo of stars are just two of the winning entries for the “100 Great Geosites” photography competition, held by The Geological Society of London.

[Full Story: In Photos: The UK’s Geologic Wonders]

Woman’s ‘Missing’ IUD Turns Up in Her Bladder

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Woman’s ‘Missing’ IUD Turns Up in Her Bladder
Woman's 'Missing' IUD Turns Up in Her Bladder
An X-ray showing a woman’s displaced IUD in her bladder. The red arrow points to the IUD in the bladder, while the white arrow points to a second IUD inserted in the uterus.

Credit: Wei Chai; Wenlei Zhang; Guifeng Jia; Miao Cui; Lifeng Cui/CC BY-SA 4.0

A woman’s IUD that appeared to be “missing” from her uterus turned up in an unusual place: her bladder.

The woman, a 26-year-old in Changchun, China, went to the doctor because of bladder problems, including increased frequency of urination and blood in her urine, along with pain in her abdomen, according to a report of the woman’s case. The patient said she’d had these symptoms for the past five years, and previous treatments hadn’t helped.

In addition, she’d had an intrauterine device, or IUD, inserted six years ago, her doctors said. But she’d become pregnant while she had the IUD, and gave birth to the baby via cesarean section in 2012. Doctors didn’t find any signs of her IUD during the C-section, and they thought the IUD may have become embedded in the wall of her uterus. She had another IUD inserted after her C-section. (An IUD is a type of long-acting, reversible contraception that is inserted into the uterus. Pregnancy with an IUD is rare, but in this woman’s case, it occurred because the IUD moved from its proper position in the uterus.)

After she reported bladder problems, doctors at The First Hospital of Jilin University in Changchun, China, performed an X-ray of her pelvis and saw something surprising: the “missing” IUD. Indeed, the X-ray revealed that the woman had two IUDs in her body: the more recently inserted IUD, which was in her uterus, and the old IUD, which had “migrated” to her bladder.

“As far as we know, the migration of an IUD into the bladder, where it causes chronic urinary symptoms, occurs rarely,” the report said. [How Can You Get Pregnant Using an IUD?]

The devices are generally very safe, and less than 1 percent of women who use the devices get pregnant each year, according to Planned Parenthood. But in rare cases, they can cause serious problems, including “perforation” of the uterus, meaning that the IUD pushes through the uterine wall. This happens in only about 1 in 1,000 women who get an IUD, the researchers said.

“Once an IUD perforates the uterus, it can move freely into many places,” including the abdominal cavity or the pelvic cavity (where the bladder is located), the researchers wrote in their report, which was published in the October issue of the journal Medicine.

In the woman’s case, the IUD perforated the uterus, and once it was in the pelvic cavity, it perforated the bladder, the researchers said. The bladder perforation healed without treatment but caused chronic urinary symptoms, they said. The woman had a procedure to remove the IUD from her bladder and did not experience any further complications, the report said.

Although rare, movement of an IUD to the bladder has been reported before — a 2016 report of a similar case in Greece noted that there have been at least 40 cases of IUD migration to the bladder reported in the past 10 years.

Perforation of the uterus by an IUD usually happens when the IUD is inserted. In the Changchun woman’s case, the uterine contractions she experienced as a result of pregnancy could have helped the IUD perforate the uterus and migrate to another area, the researchers said.

This case report demonstrates that “a missing IUD should be noticed and immediately removed to avoid further complications,” the researchers wrote.

Original article on Live Science.