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Avocados improve diet quality and lower cholesterol levels

A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association has found that, although eating one avocado per day for six months had no effect on belly fat, liver fat, or waist circumference in overweight or obese people, it nevertheless led to a slight decrease in unhealthy cholesterol level. This is the largest and longest study on the effects of avocado on health, comprising of a randomized trial of more than 1,000 participants who were followed over a period of six months.

While previous, smaller studies have found a link between eating avocados and lower body weight, BMI, and waist circumference, this new, extensive longitudinal investigation did not find any such correlations. However, according to study co-author Penny Kris-Etherton – a professor of Nutritional Science at the Pennsylvania State University – although “the avocados did not affect belly fat or weight gain, the study still provides evidence that they can be a beneficial addition to a well-balanced diet. Incorporating an avocado per day in this study did not cause weight gain and also caused a slight decrease in LDL cholesterol, which are all important findings for better health.”

Professor Kris-Etherton and her colleagues conducted a six-month experiment involving over 1,000 overweight or obese participants, half of whom were instructed to eat an avocado per day, while the others continued their usual diets and were told to limit their avocado consumption to a maximum of two each month. The scientists measured participants’ fat around the abdomen and other organs before and after the end of the study, using state-of-the-art MRI technology.

“While one avocado a day did not lead to clinically significant improvements in abdominal fat and other cardiometabolic risk factors, consuming one avocado a day did not result in body weight gain,” explained study co-author Joan Sabaté, a professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Loma Linda University. “This is positive because eating extra calories from avocados doesn’t impact body weight or abdominal fat, and it slightly decreases total and LDL-cholesterol.” The experiment revealed that daily avocado consumption resulted in total cholesterol decreasing 2.9 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), and LDL cholesterol decreasing 2.5 mg/dL.

Moreover, the results also suggest that eating avocados each day improved the overall quality of participants’ diets by eight points on a 100-point scale. “Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is generally poor in the U.S., and our findings suggest that eating an avocado per day can substantially increase overall diet quality,” reported study co-author Kristina Petersen, an expert in nutrition at Penn State. “This is important because we know a higher diet quality is associated with lower risk of several diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.”

In future studies, the researchers aim to investigate the specific ways in which participants incorporate avocados into their diets, and clarify whether how people eat avocados may influence their health benefits.

By Alison Bosman, Staff Writer  

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