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Avocados substantially reduce the risk of heart disease

Eating two or more servings of avocado on a weekly basis can lead to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to new research published by the American Heart Association. This benefit was also present when substituting fats containing foods like butter, cheese and processed meats with avocado alternatives. 

Avocados have sky-rocketed in popularity with health food trends. They contain dietary fiber, healthy fats and other favorable components associated with cardiovascular health. 

This study is the first and largest prospective study with a positive association between higher avocado consumption and lower cardiovascular events, such as coronary heart disease and stroke.

“Our study provides further evidence that the intake of plant-sourced unsaturated fats can improve diet quality and is an important component in cardiovascular disease prevention,” said study lead author Dr. Lorena S. Pacheco. “These are particularly notable findings since the consumption of avocados has risen steeply in the U.S. in the last 20 years, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

For more than three decades, the researchers followed more than 68,780 women (ages 30 to 55 years) from the Nurses’ Health Study and more than 41,700 men (ages 40 to 75 years) who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. During the 30 years of follow up, the experts documented 9,185 coronary heart disease events and 5,290 strokes.

The diet of each participant was assessed by questionnaires every four years. The researchers calculated avocado intake where one serving equaled half an avocado.

The results of the study offer guidance for healthy diets. The experts found that participants who ate at least two servings each week had a 16 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease compared to individuals who never or rarely ate avocados.

Replacing half a serving daily of margarine, butter, egg, yogurt, cheese or processed meats with avocado was associated with a 16 to 22 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease events.

“These findings are significant because a healthy dietary pattern is the cornerstone for cardiovascular health, however, it can be difficult for many Americans to achieve and adhere to healthy eating patterns,” said Dr. Cheryl Anderson, chair of the American Heart Association’s Council on Epidemiology and Prevention.

Healthcare professionals can now recommend that patients replace certain spreads and saturated fat-containing foods, such as cheese and processed meats, with avocado is something physicians and other health care practitioners such as registered dietitians can do when they meet with patients, especially since avocado is a well-accepted food, said Dr. Anderson.

This aligns with the American Heart Association’s guidance to follow the Mediterranean diet – focused on fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and fish. Researchers suggest that we need strategies that recommend healthy diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits and vegetables. While recognizing no one food is a magic solution, researchers emphasize that avocados have demonstrated health benefits. 

“This is promising because it is a food item that is popular, accessible, desirable and easy to include in meals eaten by many Americans at home and in restaurants.” said Dr. Anderson.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

By Katherine Bucko, Staff Writer

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