AndAccording to a new study, eating two or more servings of avocado per week can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 16%.
Harvard University researchers analyzed data from two large US studies: the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nursing Health Study. Between 1986 and 2016, researchers followed more than 41,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (aged 40 to 75) and more than 68,000 women (aged 30 to 55) of the Nursing Health Study.
To take part in the study, participants had to be free of cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke. Every two years later, they completed a questionnaire about their health and lifestyle. And every four years they filled out a questionnaire about what they ate.
The researchers recorded the number of cases of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke, that occurred during the 30-year study period. Those who ate two or more servings of avocado each week had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who rarely avoided or ate the fruit. (One serving of avocado was defined as half an avocado – about 80g.)
Replacing half a day serving of eggs, butter, cheese, margarine, or processed red meat with the same amount of avocado has been associated with a 16% -22% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. But replacing half a day serving of avocado with the same amount of olive oil, nuts, and other vegetable oils showed no additional benefit.
The strengths of the study are that it involved over 110,000 participants and had a long follow-up period. The researchers also considered many things that could affect the results, such as whether or not people smoked, their body weight, how active they were, and the medications they took.
However, one of the big limitations is that the participants were mostly white healthcare professionals, meaning the findings may not be applicable to other population groups. Racial and ethnic differences in cardiovascular disease were not recognized in the study. However, people from ethnic minorities experience a disproportionately greater burden of cardiovascular disease.
Another limitation is that the diet information has been self-reported. Participants may have reported below or above their avocado consumption. After all, who can accurately remember what they ate last month, let alone the last four years?
This type of study is an observational study, which means it cannot prove that eating avocado reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. It can only show that there is a probable (“statistically significant”) link between avocado consumption and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
What matters is the general diet
In the study, the researchers found that those who ate more avocados also had a better diet quality, eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. This proves that no single food like avocado is the solution to preventing heart disease. But having an overall healthy and balanced diet with a variety of nutritious foods is key to promoting good heart health.
The overall quality of the diet is important and it is equally important to eat less salt, foods and drinks containing high amounts of free sugar and fatty foods.
Although the study has some promising results for encouraging the addition of avocado to the diet, not everyone likes the taste of this fruit. It may also be expensive for some people to buy regularly and others may have some concerns about how sustainable they are.
You might consider including peanut butter, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, canola oil, olive oil, olives, and seeds, such as pumpkin seeds and sesame, in your diet, as these are also excellent sources of monounsaturated fat – the heart – healthy fat found in avos.
While a healthy diet is important for preventing heart disease, being active, not smoking, and reducing alcohol intake can also help maintain good heart health, which shouldn’t be overlooked.
Taibat (Tai) Ibitoye, dietician and doctoral researcher, University of Reading
This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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