Microscopy & Microtechniques

  • Could an Avocado a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

Could an Avocado a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

Nov 22 2019 Read 1608 Times

Over the past few years avocados have enjoyed a renaissance, with Australian property magnate Tim Gurner even claiming that an appetite for avocado toast is the reason why so many millennials can't afford to buy their first home. Now, new research from Penn State suggests that while avocados may be somewhat controversial, eating one per day could help to ward off 'bad cholesterol' and support heart health.

In a randomised study involving 45 overweight or obese adults, Penn State researchers found that participants who ate one avocado a day enjoyed lower levels of oxidised low-density lipoprotein (LDL), as well as dense LDL particles. The latter can be particularly dangerous as they promote build-up of plaque in the arteries.

"We were able to show that when people incorporated one avocado a day into their diet, they had fewer small, dense LDL particles than before the diet," explains Penny Kris-Etherton, Chair of the AHA Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health. "Consequently, people should consider adding avocados to their diet in a healthy way, like on whole-wheat toast or as a veggie dip."

Avocados combat oxidisation

Kris-Etherton explains that avocados have a similar effect on the body as lemon or lime juice has on preventing an apple from turning brown. Basically, avocados work to reduce oxidised LDL particles and prevent them from fast-tracking processes such as atherosclerosis.

"A lot of research points to oxidation being the basis for conditions like cancer and heart disease," she says. "We know that when LDL particles become oxidised, that starts a chain reaction that can promote atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of plaque in the artery wall. Oxidation is not good, so if you can help protect the body through the foods that you eat, that could be very beneficial."

Harnessing the health benefits of avocados

For Kris-Etherton and her team, the research reveals exciting new insight into the health benefits of avocados. The vitamin-rich fruit is already associated with lowering cholesterol, improving digestion and protecting from chronic disease. Now, the team has added minimising levels of oxidised low-density lipoprotein to the checklist.

"Nutrition research on avocados is a relatively new area of study, so I think we're at the tip of the iceberg for learning about their health benefits," she says. "Avocados are really high in healthy fats, carotenoids -- which are important for eye health -- and other nutrients. They are such a nutrient-dense package, and I think we're just beginning to learn about how they can improve health."

Want to know more about the power of plants? Spotlighting new research from STFC’s Central Laser Facility (CLF), 'Lasers Reveal the Secrets of Plant Cell Walls' features expert commentary from Dr Joseph McKenna.

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