Claim

Avocados can reduce the risk of heart disease study finds.

Verdict

False

There are no clinical studies showing that avocados reduce the risk of heart disease. Available information is limited to the effects of avocado on risk factors for heart disease and not the risk of heart disease itself.

Origin

Last month an article in The Huffington Post published avocado recipes and recommended eating avocados to help reduce the risk from cardiovascular disease. This recommendation was based on the recent publication of a research paper in Phytotherapy Research (1). This publication was written by a group of researchers from Iran who carried out a comprehensive systematic review of the effects of avocado on the metabolic syndrome.

The Iranian review focused on the metabolic syndrome as opposed to cardiovascular disease in their review. The metabolic syndrome is a clinical diagnosis made in patients with obesity, insulin-resistance, hypertension and high lipids. Patients with the metabolic syndrome are at a higher risk of heart disease.

Avocados (Persea americana) are a nutrient-dense source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that can be used to replace saturated fatty acids (SFA) in a diet to lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C). Avocados are also a rich source of phytochemicals.

The Iranian research group evaluated a total of 126 studies of avocados on aspects of the metabolic syndrome.

The majority of the studies reviewed involved animal data. As an example, they identified a total of 16 studies looking at the effects of avocados on blood glucose but only 2 of these studies were conducted in humans. Even these 2 studies were small and only had a total of 38 participants.

A single human clinical study looked at the effect of a moderate fat diet with and without avocados on plasma lipids (2). The study enrolled 45 overweight or obese subjects and found that inclusion of one avocado per day had beneficial effects on plasma lipid profiles.

There are no human clinical trials directly evaluating the effects of avocado consumption on heart disease outcomes such as myocardial infarction or heart attacks. Available information is limited to the relationship between avocados and known risk factors for heart disease.

The paper referenced by the Huffington Post looked at the metabolic syndrome which is a risk factor for heart disease and not heart disease per se.

The paper also mentioned that there is very limited information on the safety of avocados and raised concerns re the possibility of contamination of avocados, avocado-drug interactions and abnormal liver function tests.

In summary, there is no science behind the claim that avocados reduce the risk of heart disease.

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