One of the most important advances in nutrition and nutrigenomics (also known as the impact of diet on activity of genes) has been the science of reversing heart disease with plant-based diets. Peer reviewed and published scientific reports over the last seven decades have demonstrated the ability to halt and reverse even advanced coronary artery disease, hypertension, and other heart disorders with nutrition.
These medical research projects have emphasized whole foods, plant-based menus without added oils. Most have also advised avoiding nuts, seeds, and avocados to keep the overall percentage of calories from fat in the range of 10 percent. But now, new data on avocados are available and the role of avocados in heart disease is definitely worth another look. Eating avocados has shown some promising results:
1. Improved metabolic syndrome.
A common combination in many patients is elevated blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, and a large waistline. If three or more abnormalities are present, we refer to the condition as metabolic syndrome (MS), which predicts an increased risk of heart disease and developing full-blown type 2 diabetes. A recent review on the impact of eating avocados for MS was just published and showed that avocados lower blood cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and may have other protective effects on the heart.
2. Decreased cholesterol.
In a recent analysis of 10 studies examining the impact of eating avocados, blood cholesterol, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides fell by 20 to 30 mg/dl on average while HDL (good cholesterol) did not change. In another study of 45 overweight individuals, the impact of adding one avocado a day to their diet was assessed. The LDL-particle number and the small dense LDL-particles fell toward normal with the addition of the avocado to the diet—both favorable results for people with high cholesterol.
3. Reduced inflammation from processed meat.
In a fascinating research study, 11 healthy subjects ate a hamburger patty. Then, on another day the same subjects ate a hamburger patty with one-half of an avocado added. After the patty alone, inflammatory markers appeared in the blood and a test of artery health showed deterioration and constriction. The meal with avocado added prevented these concerning developments.
4. Increased satiety and insulin release.
Certain diet choices can lead to the release of excessive insulin, which may play a role in atherosclerosis. Research on the impact of adding avocados to meals on satiety and insulin levels was assessed and showed that blood insulin levels were lower and satiety was higher in the "avocado-inclusive" meals.
Whole avocados can be a healthy food choice for most people, particularly if they are chosen over processed foods. Even if avocados are added to less-than-ideal meals—like in the hamburger study—they may buffer the negative impact.
Until recently, a heart patient reading about the reversal of atherosclerosis would conclude that it might be best to avoid avocados completely, but the information reviewed here suggests that heart patients may also benefit from eating avocados. More data on the impact of avocados in patients with advanced heart disease would be useful but there is enough data already to include half an avocado, along with a five to six walnut halves, in any diet.
Love avocados as much as we do? Here's why you should eat them every day (if you aren't already). Also, have you heard there's a new avocado restaurant in Brooklyn? It's true. And here's their best recipe.