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  • A new study looked at eating avocados and the potential to improve metabolic factors.
  • Researchers found people who ate one avocado a day had slightly lower cholesterol levels than the control group.
  • Other measures, including body weight, BMI and insulin levels, were not significantly different between the two groups.

Nearly 40 percent of Americans live with high cholesterol levels, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This puts them at risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the U.S.

New research published this month in the Journal of the American Heart Association looked at whether or not eating one avocado per day could impact these levels. Researchers found a small but noticeable reduction in key cholesterol levels.

“While one avocado a day did not lead to clinically significant improvements in abdominal fat and other cardiometabolic risk factors, consuming one avocado a day did not result in body weight gain,” study author Joan Sabate, MD, professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, said in a statement.

Called the Habitual Diet and Avocado Trial (HAT), the study was designed to test whether consuming one large avocado per day for 6 months in a diverse group of about 1,000 people with an elevated waist circumference would decrease belly fat compared with those who ate their habitual diet.

The study received funding from the Avocado Nutrition Center, which supports research on avocado nutrition health.

Researchers provided participants with written instructions describing how to ripen, cut, remove the pit of, and peel avocados and serving ideas and recipes containing avocados. No additional dietary counseling or guidance was provided.

The group given a daily avocado was called the Avocado Supplemented Diet Group; the other group that continued their usual diet was called the Habitual Diet Group.

Sabate and team found the group that avocado eaters experienced “modest but nominally significant” reductions in total and LDL cholesterol compared to the habitual diet group. They pointed out that fiber in avocados may contribute to lower cholesterol levels.

“The between‐group differences in total cholesterol and LDL‐C align with the observed dietary fiber differences between groups,” the authors wrote, pointing out that a single avocado can have about 3.3 g of soluble fiber.

Other measurements that included body weight, body mass index (BMI), and insulin were similar between the two groups.

“LDL is also known as the bad cholesterol which can build up plaque in the blood vessels of the body,” Aeshita Dwivedi, MD, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Healthline.

Dwivedi added that plaque buildup in arteries of the heart or neck can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

He emphasized that the observed reduction in cholesterol wasn’t significant enough to improve heart health.

When asked about the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Dwivedi said they’re “good to follow.”

“It is important to discuss your diet with your doctor and or a nutritionist so it can be tailored to the medical conditions and medications that you take,” Dwivedi added.

Dwivedi found the study interesting but acknowledged that dietary studies are “tough to perform.”

“This study tested a simple hypothesis which did not seem to make clinically significant changes,“ he said. “Following a moderate, sustainable and balance lifestyle is the key to good health.”

“For many folks, it would be great if a simple step like eating one avocado a day could significantly reduce LDL levels; however, there’s no one ‘magic pill’ for good heart health,” said Michael Chan, MD, an interventional cardiologist with Providence St. Jude Medical Center in Southern California.

He pointed out that the key to maintaining heart health comes down to focusing on fundamentals that include:

  • A healthy diet
  • Regular cardiovascular exercise
  • Avoiding smoking and significant alcohol intake

“The study showed that simply adding one large avocado a day to your diet for six months does not make a significant difference in reducing your total body fat levels and had minimal impact on total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels,” said Chan. “This was essentially a negative study.”

Chan recommended a diet rich in vegetables and fruits to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

This includes legumes such as lentils, lima beans, chickpeas, soybeans, kidney beans, and whole grains like oatmeal, buckwheat, and barley.

Chan said lean protein like fish with high omega-3 fatty acids could also help.

“Avoid red meat, shellfish, whole milk products and limiting saturated, and trans fats would be ”rudent,” he cautioned.

Joshua Yamamoto, MD, a cardiology specialist in Washington, D.C., and co-author of “You Can Prevent a Stroke,” said high cholesterol levels are best managed with statins.

“This is really just genetic, and all you have to do is stop being stubborn and take statin,” said Yamamoto.

“All this concentration on diet when the body runs on pure biology and genetics – vascular disease is genetics and aging, and statins solve both,” Dr. Kristin Thom, Yamamoto’s partner at Foxhall Medicine.

New research finds adding one avocado per day to our diets could slightly reduce cholesterol levels while not causing a significant increase in belly fat.

Experts say no one food or nutrient can help prevent cardiovascular disease, but fundamentals like exercise and a healthy diet are key.

They also say that vascular disease is a combination of genetics and aging, and statin drugs help against both of those factors.