Avocados improve diet, help lower cholesterol levels - study

"Higher diet quality is associated with lower risk of several diseases"

In Summary

•Eating avocados can decrease cholesterol levels.

•Fat in the abdomen and around other organs was measured precisely using MRI scans before and after the study.

Eating one avocado a day for six months was found to have no effect on belly fat, liver fat or waist circumference in overweight individuals, according to a new study.

However, it did lead to a slight decrease in unhealthy cholesterol levels.

In the randomized trial, the team of Penn State researchers also found that participants who ate avocados had better quality diets during the study period.

While prior, smaller studies, have found a link between eating avocados and lower body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumferences, this was the largest, most extensive study to date on the health effects of avocados.

The study involved a larger number of participants and longer testing period.

"While the avocados did not affect belly fat or weight gain, the study still provides evidence that avocados can be a beneficial addition to a well-balanced diet," said Penny Kris-Etherton, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State.

"Incorporating an avocado per day did not promote weight gain and also caused a slight decrease in LDL cholesterol, which are all important findings for better health."

Kristina Petersen, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University, said the study also found that eating avocados daily improved the overall quality of the participants' diets by eight points on a 100-point scale.

"Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is generally poor in the U.S., and our findings suggest that eating an avocado per day can substantially increase overall diet quality," Petersen said.

"This is important because we know higher diet quality is associated with lower risk of several diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers."

The research was recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Avocado salad
Avocado salad

How the research was conducted and findings

For the study, the researchers conducted a six-month experiment involving more than 1,000 participants suffering from obesity, half of whom were instructed to eat an avocado every day while the other half continued their usual diet and were told to limit their avocado consumption to less than two a month.

Fat in the abdomen and around other organs was measured precisely using MRI scans before and after the study.

"While one avocado a day did not lead to clinically significant reductions in abdominal fat and other cardiometabolic risk factors, consuming one avocado a day did not result in body weight gain," said Joan Sabaté, professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health.

"This is positive because eating extra calories from avocados doesn't impact body weight or abdominal fat, and it slightly decreases total and LDL-cholesterol."

They also found that daily avocados resulted in total cholesterol decreasing 2.9 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and LDL cholesterol decreasing 2.5 mg/dL.

The researchers said that in the future, they will continue to utilise data from the study.

For example, participants were not instructed to eat their avocados with a specific dish, and future research could investigate how participants incorporated the avocados into their diet and whether any differences in the results could be observed based on how participants ate the avocados.

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