Holy Guacamole

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Holy Guacamole

An Avocado a Day May Help Keep the Doctor Away


By John Schieszer


It is believed that eating avocados may provide many important health benefits, and now you can add lowering your cholesterol levels as one of those health benefits. A new study found that individuals on a moderate-fat diet who ate an avocado every day had lower bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) levels than those on a similar diet without an avocado a day or on a lower-fat diet.

The study, which was just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, is important because it shows that eating one avocado a day as part of a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering, moderate-fat diet can help improve bad cholesterol levels in overweight and obese individuals.

Researchers evaluated the effect avocados had on traditional and novel cardiovascular risk factors by replacing saturated fatty acids from an average American diet with unsaturated fatty acids from avocados.  In this study, 45 healthy, overweight or obese patients between the ages of 21 and 70 were put on three different cholesterol-lowering diets.

"This was a controlled feeding study, but that is not the real world. So, it is a proof of concept investigation. We need to focus on getting people to eat a heart-healthy diet that includes avocados and other nutrient-rich food sources of better fats," said senior study author Penny Kris-Atherton, Ph.D., who is chair of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee and distinguished professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University.

In this study, the volunteers consumed an average American diet (consisting of 34 per cent of calories from fat, 51 per cent carbohydrates and 16 per cent protein) for two weeks prior to starting one of the following cholesterol-lowering diets: lower-fat diet without avocado, moderate-fat diet without avocado, and moderate-fat diet with one avocado per day.

Compared to the baseline average American diet, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol, was 13.5 mg/dL lower after consuming the moderate-fat diet that included an avocado. LDL was also lower on the moderate-fat diet without the avocado (8.3 mg/dL lower) and the lower-fat diet (7.4 mg/dL lower), though the results were not as striking as the avocado diet. 

Several additional blood measurements were also more favourable after the avocado diet versus the other two cholesterol-lowering diets: total cholesterol, triglycerides, small dense LDL, non-HDL cholesterol and others. These measurements are all considered to be cardio-metabolic risk factors in ways that are independent of the heart-healthy fatty acid effects, according to Kris-Atherton.

“Avocados are not a mainstream food yet, and they can be expensive, especially at certain times of the year. Also, most people do not really know how to incorporate them in their diet except for making guacamole. But guacamole is typically eaten with corn chips, which are high in calories and sodium. Avocados, however, can also be eaten with salads, vegetables, sandwiches, lean protein foods (like chicken or fish) or even whole,” said Kris-Atherton.


John Schieszer is an award-winning international journalist and radio broadcaster of The Medical Minute.  He can be reached at medicalminutes@gmail.com

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