The individual nutrients found in avocados have been linked to health benefits. Researchers investigated the benefits of eating avocado on the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Avocados are a nutrient-rich food containing fibre, potassium, magnesium, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, and phytochemicals, which have all been linked to cardiovascular health. Therefore, eating avocados may be able to modify cardiovascular risk factors that contribute to heart disease. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high body weight, and high fat composition.
Since the individual nutrients of avocados have been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers reviewed and analyzed whether there are benefits of eating avocados on cardiovascular disease and its risk. In a recent study, researchers in the United States describe the results of their systematic review and analysis on the benefits of eating avocados in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
They searched for past studies from 1946 to 2017 and included those with adult participants who were either healthy or had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The studies also had to have quantified the avocado intake, and have a comparison group of those with no or low avocado intake. A number of interesting outcomes were examined, such as cholesterol levels (total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides), blood pressure, blood sugars, and insulin levels, body weight, and body fat.
The researchers included 10 studies in their meta-analysis with study durations ranging from 3 to 25 weeks, and the avocado intake ranging from 1 to 3.7 medium avocados per day. Most of the studies involved the comparison between avocado intake versus no avocado intake.
They found that eating avocados had no effect on total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol or triglyceride levels, however, they did find a significant increase in HDL-cholesterol, which is known as the “good” cholesterol. No differences between avocado consumption and no avocado consumption were found in the other analyzed outcomes such as blood pressure, insulin levels, body weight, and body fat, and there wasn’t enough data from the included studies to analyze differences in blood sugar levels.
Since the analysis included several trials, their results were limited by the limitations within each one, and the variability between them all. The studies had small sample sizes, short intervention durations or short follow-ups, poor applicability to the general population, and none had measured long-term clinical outcomes, such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes or heart failure.
Overall, the study suggests that eating avocados may improve HDL-cholesterol, which was a consistent finding across the analyzed studies. With that said, the researchers advise that their results should be interpreted with caution and that additional longer-term studies are needed to evaluate the benefits of eating avocados on cholesterol levels and other health disease risk factors.
Written by Maggie Leung, PharmD
Reference: Mahmassani, H. A., Avendano, E. E., Raman, G., & Johnson, E. J. (2018). Avocado consumption and risk factors for heart disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,107(4), 523-536. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqx078