Can Avocados Ward Off Heart Disease Risk?

Can Avocados Ward Off Heart Disease Risk?

by Dr. Jayashree Gopinath on Apr 2 2022 2:37 PM
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  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States
  • A healthy diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Two servings of avocado a week linked to lower heart disease risk
Eating atleast two or more servings of avocado every week supports heart health. Substituting avocado for fat-containing foods like butter, cheese, or processed meats also lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke events, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all Americans have at least one of the three major risk factors that can lead to heart disease.

The obvious question is, “What can I do for my heart health?” The American Heart Association recommends a heart-healthy diet without sacrificing flavor. It is possible to follow a heart-healthy dietary pattern without much effort by including avocados regularly.


All About Avocados

Avocado is a bright green fruit, also known as alligator pears or butter fruit and is the go-to ingredient in everything from salads and wraps to smoothies and even brownies. So, what makes this pear-shaped berry such a superfood

You may have heard that avocados are high in calories and fats. But that’s not completely true. Avocados contain dietary fiber and monounsaturated fat (healthy fats) that protects the heart from external damage.

It also contains a nutrient called beta-sitosterol, the plant version of cholesterol that helps lower cholesterol levels.

Though previous research has shown avocados have a positive impact on heart disease risk factors including high cholesterol, there is no evidence about its impact on cardiovascular health.

To explore that, researchers studied the positive association between higher avocado consumption and lower cardiovascular events, such as coronary heart disease and stroke.

For 30 years, they followed more than 68,780 women (ages 30–55 years) from the Nurses’ Health Study and more than 41,700 men (ages 40–75 years) from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

All study participants were free of cancer, coronary heart disease, and stroke at the start of the study and living in the United States.

“Our study provides further evidence that the intake of plant-sourced unsaturated fats can improve diet quality and is an important component in cardiovascular disease prevention,” said Lorena S. Pacheco, PhD, MPH, RDN, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow in the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.


Delicious Findings

Researchers documented 9,185 coronary heart disease events and 5,290 strokes during more than 30 years of follow-up. Researchers assessed participants’ diet using food frequency questionnaires given at the beginning of the study and then every four years.

They calculated avocado intake from a questionnaire item that asked about the amount consumed and frequency. One serving equals half of an avocado or a half cup of avocado.

The analysis found that study participants who ate at least two servings of avocado each week had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who never or rarely ate avocados.

Based on statistical modeling, replacing half a serving daily of margarine, butter, egg, yogurt, cheese, or processed meats such as bacon with the same amount of avocado was associated with a 16% to 22% lower risk of cardiovascular disease events.

Substituting half a serving a day of avocado for the equivalent amount of olive oil, nuts, and other plant oils showed no additional benefit.

No significant associations were noted between stroke risk and how much avocado was eaten.


New Snack Options

The study’s results suggest replacing certain spreads and saturated fat-containing foods, such as cheese and processed meats, with avocado. Physicians and other health care practitioners such as registered dietitians should also discuss the benefits of avocados with their patients.

The findings also align with the American Heart Association’s guidance to follow the Mediterranean diet. This dietary pattern focuses on fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, fish, and other healthy foods and plant-based fats such as olive, canola, sesame, and other non-tropical oils.

Strategies that improve intake of AHA-recommended healthy diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, that are rich in vegetables and fruits, need to be improved in the future.

Although no one food is the solution to routinely eating a healthy diet, this study shows that avocados have possible health benefits.

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