A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association has found eating at least two servings of avocado a week is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
A 30-year study of more than 110,000 health professionals found that participants who ate at least two servings fared better compared to those who rarely ate avocados
Researchers believe this is the first, large, prospective study to support the positive association between higher avocado consumption and lower cardiovascular events, such as coronary heart disease and stroke.
“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, the lead author of the study.
“These are particularly notable findings since the consumption of avocados has risen steeply in the US in the last 20 years, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture.”
For 30 years, researchers followed more than 68,780 women (ages 30 to 55 years) from the Nurses’ Health Study and more than 41,700 men (ages 40 to 75 years) from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
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 equalled half of an avocado or a half cup of avocado.
The analysis found after considering a wide range of cardiovascular risk factors and overall diet, study participants who ate at least two servings of avocado each week had a 16 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who never or rarely ate avocados.
Based on statistical modelling, 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 per cent to 22 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease events.
The study’s results provide additional guidance for health care professionals to share. Offering the suggestion to “replace certain spreads and saturated fat-containing foods, such as cheese and processed meats, with avocado is something physicians and other health care practitioners such as registered dietitians can do when they meet with patients, especially since avocado is a well-accepted food,” Pacheco said.
The study aligns with the American Heart Association’s guidance to follow the Mediterranean diet – a dietary pattern focused on fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, fish and other healthy foods and plant-based fats such as olive, canola, sesame and other non-tropical oils.
Cheryl Anderson, chair of the American Heart Association’s Council on Epidemiology and Prevention said the findings were significant.
“Although no one food is the solution to routinely eating a healthy diet, this study is evidence that avocados have possible health benefits. This is promising because it is a food item that is popular, accessible, desirable and easy to include in meals eaten by many Americans at home and in restaurants,” said Anderson.