- Diet is an essential component of health, and eating a varied diet can help with well-being and quality of life.
- Avocados can be part of a healthy diet and can provide people with some helpful nutrients.
- A new study found that eating one avocado a day did not contribute to weight gain, may lower bad cholesterol levels, and increase diet quality.
The latest food trends and diets are constantly changing and it can be hard to keep up. Some experts are now tailoring their research to the health benefits of specific foods. One of these food items is the avocado.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association evaluated the impact of eating one avocado daily compared to a habitual diet.
Although the researchers did not find much difference between the control and intervention groups, they found that the participants who ate an avocado daily had lower bad cholesterol levels and improved their diet quality.
It is also important to point out that the Hass Avocado Board funded the research.
Cholesterol and avocados’ nutritional value
People can get cholesterol from food, but the body also makes cholesterol. There are two main types of cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). It is essential to keep cholesterol levels, in particular LDL (sometimes called “bad” cholesterol) levels, below a certain amount to prevent adverse health outcomes like stroke or coronary artery disease.
Nutritional expert Dr. Brian Power, who was not involved in the study, explained to Medical News Today how blood cholesterol levels and heart health are connected.
“Convincing evidence from studies paints a picture of blood cholesterol levels being important for heart health. Elevated levels are an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including cerebrovascular disease and coronary heart disease.”
— Dr. Brian Power
Research is ongoing about what factors influence cholesterol levels and how people can modify their diets to keep their cholesterol at healthy levels and improve their overall diet. One area of interest is how specific foods impact health.
For example, eating avocados may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Avocados also contain several helpful vitamins like vitamin C and K, and they are a good source of fiber.
Benefits of an avocado a day
The study in question was a randomized trial and examined the health benefits of eating one avocado daily over six months. Researchers wanted to see if eating a daily avocado helped people to reduce visceral adiposity in participants with an elevated waist circumference (“a waist circumference of ≥35 inches for women and ≥40 inches for men”).
They also looked at the impact on several other health outcomes, including cholesterol levels, body weight, body mass index, and health-related quality of life.
To be included in the study, participants had to have an elevated waist circumference and regular consumption of two or fewer avocados per month. The intervention group (505 participants) consumed one avocado daily, while the control group (503 participants) continued their typical diet. Researchers collected data about dietary intake at the start of the study and at 8, 16, and 26 weeks and used MRI scans to look at levels of visceral adipose tissue or the body fat that lines abdominal organs.
Researchers found that there weren’t many significant differences between the control and intervention groups. The exception was in cholesterol levels. The intervention group had lower total cholesterol levels and lower “bad” cholesterol levels.
There were also slight differences in diet between the two groups, with the intervention group having higher healthy eating index scores. The intervention group took in higher levels of fiber and fat and lower levels of carbohydrates and protein.
In addition, researchers also found no significant differences between the groups regarding weight gain, indicating that incorporating a daily avocado did not contribute to weight gain.
Study author Dr. Alice H. Lichtenstein noted that adding superfoods or health foods to one’s diet did not necessarily translate into significant health benefits.
“The study found that simply adding a ‘healthy food’ in terms of fats and nutrients, in this case, an avocado, to one’s diet did not result in clinical benefits. However, there were no negative effects, and it was associated with a benefit, an improvement [in] overall diet quality.”
— Dr. Alice H. Lichtenstein
Limitations and moving forward
This study had some limitations. For example, researchers did not collect data about participants’ medications. Second, participants were only observed over six months, and a longer time frame could have seen different results, particularly in terms of visceral adipose tissue.
Researchers also conducted the study during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have influenced participants’ lives. They had a high retention rate for participants, but not everyone who started the study completed it. Some data collection, such as about diet, relied on participant reporting, so there is a risk for errors.
Dr. Power noted that the study is a reminder that there is no one “fix it” food when it comes to a healthy diet.
“[The study’s] important message is that focusing on single foods is not a substitute for maintaining healthy dietary patterns as a whole. That said, irrespective of any modest benefit on cholesterol, anything that encourages people to consume more fruit and vegetables as a part of an overall balanced diet is to be welcomed.”
— Dr. Brian Power
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