OCT 28, 2019 02:31 PM PDT

An Avocado a Day for Heart Health

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

There’s more great news for avocado lovers! The beloved tree fruit has undoubtedly skyrocketed in popularity over the last few decades thanks to a multitude of health benefits. Avocados are nutrient-rich and contain “good fats”—essential to any well-balanced diet. And now, according to Penn State researchers, eating an avocado a day may help reduce bad cholesterol levels.

This news may sound familiar, and researchers have indeed previously demonstrated that avocados may lower LDL cholesterol. In this study, lead researcher and professor of nutrition Penny Kris-Etherton and team aimed to discover if daily avocado consumption would reduce oxidized LDL particles. According to the study, oxidation of LDL particles is key in the development of atherosclerosis. As Kris-Etherton told Penn State reporters, “A lot of research points to oxidation being the basis for conditions like cancer and heart disease…Oxidation is not good, so if you can help protect the body through the foods that you eat, that could be very beneficial.”

The study used 45 overweight or obese participants with elevated LDL cholesterol. To align their nutritional baseline, all participants went through a two-week diet period that mimicked the average American diet. Then, they each completed five weeks of three different cholesterol-lowering diets in random order: a low-fat diet, a moderate-fat diet, and a moderate-fat diet with an avocado a day (the “avocado diet”). The avocado diet included one Hass avocado (about 136 grams in size) each day. The moderate-fat diet had a fatty acid profile that matched the avocado diet.

The research results determined that the avocado diet significantly decreased circulating oxidized LDL particles by 8.8%. Specifically, according to the Penn State article regarding the study, there was a reduction in small, dense LDL cholesterol particles. Researchers were able to rule out fatty acids as the mechanism for the lower oxidized LDL since the moderate-fat diet (with the matched fatty acid profile) did not lower oxLDL particles.

Kris-Etherton stated, “All LDL is bad, but small, dense LDL is particularly bad. A key finding was that people on the avocado diet had fewer oxidized LDL particles. They also had more lutein, which may be the bioactive that’s protecting the LDL from being oxidized.”

Although the research team is confident in their discovery, they recommend a longer-term diet study that measures additional biomarkers to understand the health benefits of avocados further.

Sources: Penn State, The Journal of Nutrition

About the Author
  • Enthusiastic science geek passionate about wildlife, wild places, and environmental issues. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, Tiffany hopes to educate and inspire the public to protect our planet.
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