Diet is an essential part of good health, and a varied diet can contribute to well-being and quality of life. Avocados can be part of a healthy diet and provide helpful nutrients. A new study has found that eating an avocado a day does not contribute to weight gain, may lower bad cholesterol levels and improve diet quality.
Food trends and the latest diets are constantly changing and it can be difficult to keep up. Some experts are now focusing their research on the health benefits of certain foods. One of these foods is the avocado. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association evaluated the impact of daily consumption of an avocado compared to a usual diet. Although the researchers did not find a big difference between the control group and the intervention group, they did find that participants who ate an avocado a day had lower bad cholesterol levels and improved the quality of their food.
Cholesterol and the Nutritional Value of Avocados
Cholesterol can come from food, but the body also manufactures it. There are two main types of cholesterol: Low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL). Keeping cholesterol, especially LDL (sometimes called “bad” cholesterol), below a certain level is essential to prevent adverse health effects like stroke or coronary heart disease. In fact, blood cholesterol levels and heart health are linked.
Studies convincingly show that blood cholesterol levels are important for heart health. High levels are a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including cerebrovascular disease and coronary heart disease.
Research is ongoing on the factors that influence cholesterol levels and how people can change their diet to keep their cholesterol at healthy levels and improve their overall diet. One of the areas of interest is the impact of certain foods on health. For example, eating avocados can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Avocados also contain several helpful vitamins, such as vitamins C and K, and are a good source of fiber.
The benefits of an avocado a day
The study in question was a randomized trial and looked at the health benefits of consuming one avocado daily for six months. The researchers wanted to see if eating an avocado a day helped people reduce visceral adiposity in participants with a large waist circumference (“a waist circumference of ≥ 90 cm for women and ≥ 100 cm for men “).
They also looked at the impact on several other health outcomes, including cholesterol levels, body weight, body mass index and health-related quality of life.
To be included in the study, participants had to have a large waist circumference and a regular consumption of two or fewer avocados per month. The intervention group (505 participants) consumed one avocado daily, while the control group (503 participants) continued their usual diet. Researchers collected food intake data at the start of the study, then after 8, 16 and 26 weeks, and used MRI scans to examine visceral fat tissue levels. That is, the body fat that covers the abdominal organs.
The researchers found that there were not many significant differences between the control and intervention groups. The exception was cholesterol levels. The intervention group had lower total cholesterol levels and lower “bad” cholesterol levels.
There were also slight differences in diet between the two groups, with the intervention group scoring better on the Healthy Eating Index. The intervention group took in higher levels of fiber and fat and lower levels of carbohydrates and protein. Additionally, the researchers found no significant differences between groups in weight gain, indicating that incorporating one avocado daily does not contribute to weight gain.
The study found that simply adding a “healthy food” in terms of fats and nutrients, in this case an avocado, to one’s diet did not lead to clinical benefits. However, there were no negative effects, and it was associated with a benefit, an improvement in overall diet quality.
Limits and future prospects
This study had certain limitations. For example, the researchers did not collect data on participants’ medications. Then, the participants were only observed for six months, and a longer period could have given different results, especially in terms of visceral adipose tissue. The important message from the study is that focusing on a single food is not a substitute for maintaining a healthy diet overall. That said, regardless of even a modest benefit on cholesterol, anything that encourages people to consume more fruits and vegetables as part of an overall balanced diet is to be welcomed.
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