A high-fat food reduces risk of heart disease by more than 21%

    Yes, you read that correctly. There is a high-fat food that protects your heart, and eating just two servings each week can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by 21%.

    There is new research out today that says eating two or more servings of avocado a week is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, and replacing avocado for certain fat-containing foods like butter, cheese, and processed meats is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease events.

    The research was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

    Avocados are high in dietary fiber, unsaturated fats, particularly monounsaturated fat (healthy fats), and other nutrients linked to good cardiovascular health. Avocados have previously been demonstrated to have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol in clinical trials.

    This is the first big, prospective study, according to the researchers, to show a link between higher avocado consumption with a lower risk of cardiovascular events such as coronary heart disease and stroke.

    “Our study provides further evidence that the intake of plant-sourced unsaturated fats can improve diet quality and is an important component in cardiovascular disease prevention,” adds Lorena S. Pachec. “These are particularly notable findings since the consumption of avocados has risen steeply in the U.S. in the last 20 years, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

    More than 68,780 women (ages 30 to 55) from the Nurses’ Health Study and more than 41,700 men (ages 40 to 75) from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study were followed for 30 years by researchers.

    At the outset of the trial, all individuals were free of cancer, coronary heart disease, and stroke and lived in the United States.

    During more than 30 years of follow-up, researchers recorded 9,185 coronary heart disease events and 5,290 strokes. Food frequency questionnaires were given to participants at the start of the trial and then every four years to assess their diet.

    They figured out how much avocado they ate by filling out a questionnaire that asked about the amount and how often they ate it. Half an avocado (or a half cup) was equal to one serving.

    The results showed:

    • Study participants who ate at least two servings of avocado per week had a 16 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who never or seldom ate avocados.According to statistical modeling, substituting half a serving of avocado for half a serving of margarine, butter, egg, yogurt, cheese, or processed meats like bacon was associated with a 16 percent to 22 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease events.
    • There was no additional benefit from substituting half a serving of avocado per day for the comparable quantity of olive oil, almonds, or other plant oils.
    • There were no significant connections between stroke risk and the amount of avocado consumed.

    The findings of the study provide further advice for health care providers to share. “Replace certain spreads and saturated fat-containing foods, such as cheese and processed meats, with avocado is something physicians and other health care practitioners, such as registered dietitians, can do when they meet with patients,” Pacheco says, adding that avocado is a well-accepted food.

    The findings support the American Heart Association’s recommendation to adopt the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seafood, and other healthful foods, as well as plant-based fats like olive, canola, sesame, and other non-tropical oils.

    “These findings are significant because a healthy dietary pattern is the cornerstone for cardiovascular health, however, it can be difficult for many Americans to achieve and adhere to healthy eating patterns,” adds Cheryl Anderson.

    “We desperately need strategies to improve intake of AHA-recommended healthy diets — such as the Mediterranean diet — that are rich in vegetables and fruits,” says Anderson. “Although no one food is the solution to routinely eating a healthy diet, this study is evidence that avocados have possible health benefits. This is promising because it is a food item that is popular, accessible, desirable and easy to include in meals eaten by many Americans at home and in restaurants.”

    Because the study is observational, it is impossible to prove a direct cause and effect relationship. Data collection and the composition of the study population are two other research limitations. Because dietary consumption was self-reported, measurement errors may have influenced the study’s findings. These findings may not apply to other groups because the participants were predominantly white nurses and health care workers.

    Source: 10.1161/JAHA.121.024014

    Image Credit: Getty

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