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A daily dose of avocado improves gut health

Eating avocados on a daily basis can improve gut health, according to a new study from the University of Illinois. A healthy gut is important for maintaining brain function, heart health, effective digestion, and a strong immune system, and may even prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases.

“We know eating avocados helps you feel full and reduces blood cholesterol concentration, but we did not know how it influences the gut microbes, and the metabolites the microbes produce,” said study lead author Sharon Thompson.

The researchers found that people who consumed avocado once per day had a greater abundance of gut microbes that break down fiber and produce beneficial metabolites. Individuals who ate avocados regularly also had greater microbial diversity.

“Microbial metabolites are compounds the microbes produce that influence health,” said Thompson. “Avocado consumption reduced bile acids and increased short chain fatty acids. These changes correlate with beneficial health outcomes.”

The study was focused on 163 adults between the ages of 25 and 45 who were overweight or obese, but otherwise healthy. The participants received one meal per day as a replacement for either breakfast, lunch, or dinner. One group consumed daily meals that included avocado, while the control group was provided with similar meals that did not include avocado. 

Over the course of 12 weeks, the participants provided blood, urine, and fecal samples. The purpose of the study was to explore the effects of avocado consumption on the gastrointestinal microbiota, explained senior study author Professor Hannah Holscher.

“Our goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fiber in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota. We also wanted to explore the relationships between gut microbes and health outcomes.”

The fats in avocados are monounsaturated, which are heart-healthy fats. Soluble fiber content is also very important, noted Professor Holscher. A medium avocado provides around 12 of the 28 to 34 grams of fiber that is recommended each day. 

“Less than 5% of Americans eat enough fiber. Most people consume around 12 to 16 grams of fiber per day. Thus, incorporating avocados in your diet can help get you closer to meeting the fiber recommendation.”

According to Professor Holscher, eating fiber is not only good for us, but is also important for the gut microbiome. “We can’t break down dietary fibers, but certain gut microbes can. When we consume dietary fiber, it’s a win-win for gut microbes and for us.”

“Just like we think about heart-healthy meals, we need to also be thinking about gut healthy meals and how to feed the microbiota.”

The study is published in the Journal of Nutrition.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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