A new long-term study has found that eating avocados greatly reduces the risk of heart attacks in men and women, even when consumed in place of butter, cheese or processed meats.
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, with nearly 18 million deaths each year.
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In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that heart disease comes to life every 36 seconds.
Eating at least two servings of avocado a week reduces the risk of having a heart attack by 21% compared to avoiding or rarely eating avocados.
However, there has not been an equivalent benefit in reducing stroke risk, according to the study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The author of the study is Lorena Pacheco, a postdoctoral researcher in the nutrition department of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
One serving of avocado, which is a fruit, has been defined as “half an avocado or half a cup of avocado, which weighs about 80 grams,” Pacheco said.
The study followed more than 68,000 women and 41,000 men enrolled in two long-term government studies on risk factors for chronic disease: the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
All participants were cancer, coronary heart disease, and stroke free at the start of the studies and completed dietary questionnaires every four years over a 30-year period.
In addition to examining the overall impact of avocado consumption, the researchers ran statistical models.
They found that consuming half a serving of avocado (a quarter cup) per day instead of the same amount of eggs, yogurt, cheese, margarine, butter, or processed meats, such as bacon, reduced the risk of heart attack by 16% to 22%. cent.
“The full benefit of routine avocado consumption observed here comes from swapping avocados in the diet and eliminating less healthy foods,” said Dr. David Katz, a specialist in preventive and lifestyle nutrition and medicine, who did not. was involved in the study.
However, the study found no differences in risk reduction when one serving of avocado in half was replaced with an equivalent serving of nuts, olive, and other vegetable oils.
This makes sense, says Katz, because the health benefits depend on the food being substituted.
But if avocado replaced butter and margarine as a spread, or was consumed in place of processed meats or cheese on a sandwich, “the nutritional distinctions are considerable” and should change the health outcome, he added.
Although avocados are “particularly rich sources of monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and fiber,” they can also be expensive and therefore not readily available to everyone, Katz said.
Similar substitutes could include walnuts, almonds, olives, olive oil, and a variety of seeds such as pumpkin and flax.
Other foods to include that have important health benefits at “much lower price points” include beans, chickpeas and lentils, “and perhaps whole grains and related seeds like quinoa,” Katz said.
Preventing heart disease
Preventing heart disease means controlling weight, blood pressure and cholesterol.
It also means good quality sleep and regular exercise, managing stress, limiting alcohol and avoiding tobacco consumption, and eating a healthy diet low in sugar, processed foods and saturated fat.
The American Heart Association states that your body needs fat to increase energy, protect organs, produce hormones, and help with nutrient absorption.
However, fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are heart-healthy choices.
Olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, and sesame oil are sources of monounsaturated fats, along with avocado, peanut butter, and many nuts and seeds.
Saturated fat and trans fat increase LDL levels, known as “bad cholesterol,” the AHA said.
Saturated fats, such as butter, are typically solid at room temperature and are found in whole dairy products, eggs, coconut and palm oils, and fatty cuts of beef, pork, and poultry with skin.
Artificial trans fats, also called partially hydrogenated oils, raise bad LDL cholesterol and lower good HDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
These can often be found in “fried foods like donuts and baked goods including pies, pie crusts, cookies, frozen pizza, biscuits, crackers, stick margarines, and other spreads,” according to the AHA.