New research examines effects of a moderate fat diet that includes eating avocados

Study resonates with Hispanic community as cardiovascular disease is a leading killer of US Hispanics

Results from a recent nutrition study, led by Pennsylvania State University, show that eating a moderate fat diet with fresh avocado may benefit cholesterol levels more than moderate fat or low fat diets without avocado.

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the research found that healthy, overweight and obese men and women who followed a moderate fat diet that included one fresh avocado daily had significantly improved bad cholesterol to good cholesterol ratios compared with eating a similar moderate fat or low fat diet without avocados.

This scientific evidence adds to a growing body of research linking cholesterol levels with diet. Improving cholesterol levels may be important for US Hispanics who struggle with cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death in the community.1

Elevated cholesterol in the blood can increase risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A heart healthy diet can play an important role in keeping cholesterol levels within a normal range. For example, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating more fruits and vegetables for many reasons including evidence suggesting consumption of at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the Pennsylvania University study, researchers found that the avocado diet significantly improved the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL or 'good' cholesterol as well as the ratio of LDL, or 'bad' cholesterol, to HDL-cholesterol. The moderate fat and low fat diets without avocado did not significantly improve these ratios.

'The results of this study suggest that the monounsaturated fat, fibre, phytosterols and other dietary bioactives in avocados may provide greater benefits to cardiovascular disease risk factors compared with a calorie matched low fat diet,' said Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, lead author of the study who is an expert in cardiovascular nutrition and Distinguished Professor at the Pennsylvania State University.

A possible explanation as to why the moderate fat diet with avocado had a more beneficial effect than the moderate fat diet without avocado is that the avocado diet provided 35% more fibre, which is associated with lower cholesterol levels.

While the conclusions are drawn from a single study that cannot be generalised to all populations, the study does provide further insights on the relationship between avocados and biomarkers for cardiovascular disease such as LDL cholesterol. It remains to be seen whether the results could be replicated in groups other than healthy, obese adults or with a single serving of avocado rather than a whole avocado each day.

Fresh avocados contain 'naturally good' unsaturated fats and are cholesterol free. In fact, more than 75% of the fat in an avocado is unsaturated, making it a great substitute for foods high in saturated fats. A versatile fruit, avocados are smart for snacking, breakfast, lunch or dinner.

'Avocados are long-standing staples of Hispanic culture and easy to fit into a full range of healthy eating plans. Their authenticity combined with their potential impact on heart health is promising and worth further study,' said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board, which underwrote the study. 'Building on this foundation, Hass Avocado we will continue to invest in nutrition research that explores the benefits of having fresh avocados on the menu every day.'

To view the abstract or the published article, click here.