One avocado a week may cut heart disease risk by 16%

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New research finds that two servings of avocado a week may reduce cardiovascular risk. Darren Muir / Stocksy
  • Researchers examined the relationship between avocado consumption and cardiovascular events.
  • They found that eating 2 or more servings of avocado per week is linked to 16% fewer cardiovascular events over a 30-year period. One serving is half an avocado, or 80 grams (g).
  • The researchers conclude that replacing certain fat-containing foods with avocado could lower cardiovascular disease risk.
  • They note however that replacing plant oils with avocado is linked to a 45% higher stroke risk.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. However, it can be prevented through lifestyle factors like diet.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting 5-6% of calories intake from saturated fatty acid (SFA), and replacing SFA and trans-fats with monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats for better heart health.

Avocados are rich in MUFAs and polyunsaturated fats. Studies have found that their regular consumption reduces triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels.

Most studies on avocado consumption have focused on cardiovascular risk factors. Studies investigating the link between avocado consumption and cardiovascular events could improve understanding of the fruit’s health benefits.

Recently, researchers have investigated the link between avocado consumption and cardiovascular events.

They found that higher consumption of avocados was linked to a lower risk of CVD and coronary heart disease (CHD).

“The […] results are significant and strengthen previous findings of avocados’ association with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease [as well as] reducing heart outcomes such as fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction, ”Bhanu Gupta, MD, cardiologist at The University of Kansas Health System, not involved in the study, told Medical News Today.

“Point to be noted: avocado consumption does not lower the risk of stroke in the study. Another point to be noted: avocado is not a substitute for healthy dietary fats such as olive oils, nuts, and other plant oils. ”

– Dr. Gupta

The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).

For the study, the researchers used data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) and the Nurses’ Health Studies (NHS). Both studies are ongoing and began in 1986 and 1976 to examine the effects of health and lifestyle on the incidence of serious illness in male and female healthcare professionals.

For the present study, the researchers included 62,225 females and 41,701 males who did not have a history of heart disease, stroke, or cancer.

The researchers examined their medical records for the incidence of myocardial infarction and stroke, dietary surveys taken once every 4 years, and risk factors such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes from self-reports and physician diagnoses. Participants were tracked for 30 years.

By the end of the study period, the researchers noted 14,274 incident cases of CVD including 9,185 CHD events and 5,290 strokes.

The researchers noted that males and females with higher avocado intake tended to have higher total energy intake and a healthier diet with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and dairy products such as yogurt and cheese.

After adjusting for major dietary and lifestyle factors, the researchers found that having two or more servings of avocado per week was linked to a 16% lower CVD risk and 21% lower CHD risk compared to those who did not eat avocados.

They further found that replacing half a serving per day of mayonnaise, margarine, butter, egg, yogurt, cheese, or processed meats with the same amount of avocado was linked to a 19–31% lower risk of coronary heart disease.

They reported no significant association between stroke risk and avocado consumption. However, they noted that replacing half a serving per day of plant oils with an equivalent amount of avocado was linked to a 45% higher stroke risk.

When asked to explain what might account for the positive effects of avocado on CVD risk, study first author Lorena Pacheco, Ph.D., MPH, RDN, postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, told MNT:

Avocados are a nutrient-rich food item with favorable food compounds including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats), vitamins, minerals, soluble fiber, vegetable proteins, phytosterols, and polyphenols. There are potential biological mechanisms by which avocados offer cardioprotective benefits. ”

“The primary monounsaturated fatty acid present in avocados is oleic acid – healthy fat – and it has been suggested that it helps in reducing hypertension, inflammation, and insulin sensitivity.”

“Additionally, they contain plant sterols that could have beneficial effects on lipid profiles. [Also]the soluble fiber intake in avocados can also lead to a better lipid profile, meaning lower ‘bad cholesterol’ levels, ”she explained.

“They are also a source of vegetable protein,” added Penny M. Kris-Etherton Ph.D., professor of nutritional science at Penn State College of Health and Human Development, not involved in the study. “Collectively, it is very likely that this ‘package’ of heart-health compounds accounts for the findings,” said Dr. Chris-Etherton.

The researchers concluded that replacing certain fat-containing foods with avocado could lower CVD risk.

The authors noted some limitations to their findings. As their study was observational, they could not establish causation.

Shannon Hoos-Thompson, MD, a cardiologist at The University of Kansas Health System, not involved in the study, explained for MNT:

“To put the findings in perspective, eating less cardiovascular unhealthy food may be the explanation [rather] than the result being specific to avocado consumption. ”

The authors also noted that their study population was primarily non-Hispanic white nurses and health professionals, so their results may not be generalized to wider demographics.

“The dietary data were self-reported and have some measurement error,” added Dr. Chris-Etherton. “However, the authors used repeated measurements of dietary assessment method and collected intake data over time, which reduces random measurement error.”

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