Eating avocado twice a week cuts risk of heart disease by 21%: Study
Eating at least two servings of avocado a week reduced the risk of having a heart attack by 21% when compared to avoiding or rarely eating avocados, new research in the US has found.
The study was carried out by Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, and published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
A serving of avocado, which is a fruit, was defined as "½ avocado or ½ cup of avocado, which roughly weighs 80 grams," said study author Lorena Pacheco, a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
In addition to looking at the overall impact of eating avocados, researchers did statistical modeling and found consuming half a serving of avocado (¼ cup) a day instead of the same amount of eggs, yogurt, cheese, margarine, butter or processed meats (such as bacon) lowered the risk of heart attacks by 16% to 22%.
"The full benefit of routine avocado consumption observed here derives from swapping avocado into the diet, and less healthful foods out," said Dr. David Katz, a specialist in preventive and lifestyle medicine and nutrition, who was not involved in the study.
However, the study did not find a difference in risk reduction when a half-serving of avocado was replaced with an equivalent serving of nuts, olive and other plant oils. That makes sense, Katz said, because the health benefits are dependent on what food is replaced.
"If, for instance, the common swap were between avocado and walnuts or almonds, the health effects would likely be negligible since the foods have similar nutritional properties and expected health effects," said Katz, the president and founder of the nonprofit True Health Initiative, a global coalition of experts dedicated to evidence-based lifestyle medicine.
Although avocados are "particularly rich sources of monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and fiber," they can also be pricey and therefore not readily available to all, Katz said. Similar substitutes could include walnuts, almonds, olives, olive oil and a variety of seeds such as pumpkin and flax, he said.
Other foods to include that have major health benefit at "much lower price points," include beans, chickpeas and lentils, "and perhaps whole grains and related seeds like quinoa," Katz said.