UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An avocado a day helps keep bad cholesterol away, a new study reveals. Researchers from Penn State have found that eating an avocado daily for six months decreased unhealthy cholesterol levels. The “healthy” fats in avocados also had no negative effect on a person’s belly fat or waist circumference, though it didn’t lead to any weight loss either.
Previous studies have pointed to the benefits of eating avocados for losing weight, but the current study — which, notably, was funded by the Hass Avocado Board — is the largest to date that looks at multiple health effects of avocados.
“While the avocados did not affect belly fat or weight gain, the study still provides evidence that avocados can be a beneficial addition to a well-balanced diet,” says Penny Kris-Etherton, an Evan Pugh University Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State, in a university release. “Incorporating an avocado per day in this study did not cause weight gain and also caused a slight decrease in LDL cholesterol, which are all important findings for better health.”
Eating daily avocados also led to better quality food choices
“Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is generally poor in the U.S., and our findings suggest that eating an avocado per day can substantially increase overall diet quality,” notes study co-author Kristina Petersen, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University.
“This is important because we know a higher diet quality is associated with lower risk of several diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.”
The team designed a six-month experiment that enrolled over 1,000 participants who were overweight or obese. Half of the participants ate one avocado every day. The other half continued with their usual diet while limiting their avocado consumption to fewer than two per month. The team measured people’s fat and waist circumference using an MRI before and after the study.
“While one avocado a day did not lead to clinically significant improvements in abdominal fat and other cardiometabolic risk factors, consuming one avocado a day did not result in body weight gain,” says Joan Sabaté, a professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health. “This is positive because eating extra calories from avocados doesn’t impact body weight or abdominal fat, and it slightly decreases total and LDL-cholesterol.”
Eating a daily avocado displayed a connection to a 2.9 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) decrease in total cholesterol. LDL “bad” cholesterol levels dropped on average by 2.5 mg/dL.
Future work will continue looking at how avocados decrease cholesterol levels. One possibility is how people ate this superfood, since researchers did not provide any instructions on how the participants should eat the fruit.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and was funded by the Hass Avocado Board.