In a novel study, researchers conducted a randomised controlled trial comparing the potential health effects between families of Mexican descent that consumed a low allotment of avocados (three per week) and families that consumed a high allotment (14 per week).
They found that the high avocado allotment families self-reported lower caloric consumption, reducing their intake of other foods, including dairy, meats and refined grains and their associated negative nutrients, such as saturated fat and sodium.
The findings, published in Nutrients, may offer insights into how to better address the burgeoning public health issues of obesity and related diseases, particularly in high-risk communities, said the authors.
“Data regarding the effects of avocado intake on family nutritional status has been non-existent,” said senior author Matthew Allison, MD, professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
“Recent trials have focused on individuals, primarily adults, and limited to changes in cardiometabolic disease blood markers. Our trial’s results provide evidence that a nutrition education and high avocado allotment reduces total caloric energy in Mexican heritage families.”
The soft and buttery insides of the avocado are rich in vitamins C, E, K and B6, plus riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, potassium, lutein, beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acids.
Half of a medium-sized fruit provides up to 20% of the recommended daily fibre, 10% potassium, 5% magnesium, 15% folate and 7.5 grams of monounsaturated fatty acids.
For the study, researchers enrolled 72 families (231 individuals) consisting of at least three members each over the age of five, residing in the same home, free of severe chronic disease, not on specific diets, and of Mexican heritage. The families were randomised into two groups for six months, during which time both groups also received bi-weekly nutrition education sessions.
Researchers wanted to assess if increased but moderated consumption of a single, nutrient-dense food might measurably improve overall health and decrease diet-related disparities.
While no change in BMI or waist circumference was seen between the two groups during the trial, researchers noted that consuming more avocados appeared to speed satiety. Fats and some dietary fibres, such as those found in avocados, can impact total energy intake by influencing gastrointestinal functions, such as introducing bulk that slows gastric emptying, regulating glucose and insulin reactions, prolonging nutrient absorption and modifying key peptide hormones that signal fullness.
Interestingly, the study found that families consuming more avocados correspondingly reduced their consumption of animal protein, specifically chicken, eggs and processed meats, the latter of which are typically higher in fat and sodium. Current nutrition guidelines recommend reduced consumption of both fat and sodium.
But surprisingly, high avocado consumers also recorded decreased intake of calcium, iron, sodium, vitamin D, potassium and magnesium, which researchers said might be associated with eating less.
“Our results show that the nutrition education and high avocado intake intervention group significantly reduced their family total energy intake, as well as carbohydrate, protein, fat (including saturated), calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, potassium and vitamin D,” said first author Lorena Pacheco.
“In secondary energy-adjusted analyses, the nutrition education and high avocado allotment group significantly increased their intake of dietary fibre, monounsaturated fatty acids, potassium, vitamin E and folate.”