Avocados took the health world by storm over the last decade thanks to their high-fat content and versatility as a binder in vegan baking. Once relegated to bowls of guacamole, American home chefs now use the fruit (yes, fruit) for everything from breakfast toast to smoothies to chocolate cakes.
Now a randomized trial by American researchers at Penn State University just affirmed what many healthy citizens already suspected: avocados can lead to a decrease in unhealthy cholesterol levels.
“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, Evan Pugh University Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State. “Incorporating an avocado per day in this study caused a slight decrease in LDL cholesterol without causing any significant weight-gain. We believe these are all important findings for better health.”
Kristina Petersen, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University, said 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,” she said. “This is important because we know a higher diet quality is associated with lower risk of several diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.”
Avocados reduce “bad” cholesterol without promoting weight gain
The research findings were recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. In addition to Penn State, the study was conducted in conjunction with Loma Linda University, Tufts University, and UCLA, with coordinating efforts from Wake Forest University.
The experiment took place over a six month timeframe. More than 1,000 participants, all of whom reported being overweight or obese, either ate one avocado per day in addition to their regular diet; or purposefully avoided avocado consumption altogether. The “high-fat” superfood did not cause any weight gain whatsoever, even in bodies who are at risk for easy weight gain.
“While one avocado a day did not lead to clinically significant improvements in abdominal fat and other cardiometabolic risk factors, consuming one avocado a day did not result in body weight gain,” said Joan Sabate, 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. But it did slightly decrease total and LDL-cholesterol.”
LDL cholesterol is often called the “bad” cholesterol because it collects in the walls of your blood vessels, raising your chances of health problems like a heart attack or stroke.
The research found that daily avocados resulted in total cholesterol decreasing 2.9 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL); with LDL cholesterol decreasing 2.5 mg/dL.
Researchers said that the participants were not instructed how to eat the avocados daily. So choice of consumption — be it in a smoothie versus on top of a plate of fattening Mexican food — could have had an effect on final outcomes. The study leads said they will continue to administer new research with more strict variables in the coming years.