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September 14, 2021
The study, funded by the Haas Avocado Board, sought to evaluate the effects of avocado consumption on abdominal adiposity, insulin resistance, oral-glucose-tolerance test (OGTT), and estimated β-cell function.
“In the abdomen, there are two kinds of fat: fat that accumulates right underneath the skin, called subcutaneous fat, and fat that accumulates deeper in the abdomen, known as visceral fat, that surrounds the internal organs. Individuals with a higher proportion of that deeper visceral fat tend to be at a higher risk of developing diabetes. So we were interested in determining whether the ratio of subcutaneous to visceral fat changed with avocado consumption,” said lead author Naiman Khan, an Illinois professor of kinesiology and community health.
For the study, 105 adults who were classified as either overweight or obese participated in a randomized controlled 12-week trial that provided one meal a day. Participants were divided into two groups. One group received meals that incorporated a fresh avocado, while the other group received a meal that had nearly identical ingredients and similar calories but did not contain avocado. At the beginning and end of the 12 weeks, the researchers measured participants’ abdominal fat and their glucose tolerance, a measure of metabolism and a marker of diabetes.
According to the findings published in the Journal of Nutrition, female participants who consumed an avocado a day as part of their meal had a reduction in visceral abdominal fat—the hard-to-target fat associated with higher risk—and experienced a reduction in the ratio of visceral fat to subcutaneous fat, indicating a redistribution of fat away from the organs. However, fat distribution in males did not change, and neither males nor females had improvements in glucose tolerance.
“While daily consumption of avocados did not change glucose tolerance, what we learned is that a dietary pattern that includes an avocado every day impacted the way individuals store body fat in a beneficial manner for their health, but the benefits were primarily in females,” Khan said. “It’s important to demonstrate that dietary interventions can modulate fat distribution. Learning that the benefits were only evident in females tells us a little bit about the potential for sex playing a role in dietary intervention responses.”
Avocado consumption has been on the rise for the past few years, thanks to more understanding of the little green fruit’s nutritional power. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, D and E as well as unsaturated fats, just one-third of a medium avocado (50 g) has 80 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, making it a great nutrient-dense food choice. Avocados also are low in carbohydrates and sugar and provide 8% of the daily value (DV) for fiber.
A June report from Rabobank found U.S. avocado consumption hit record highs, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, as consumers looked for healthy and versatile options. The report noted consumer demand for avocados, fueled by economic recovery, sustained retail sales and increasing foodservice activity, will continue to support prices.
Science also supports avocado’s status as a superfruit. A January 2021 study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggested avocados may play a role in developing and maintaining a healthy microbiota. According to the researchers, “nutrient-dense [avocado] affects digestive physiology, as well as the composition and metabolic functions of the intestinal microbiota.”
Further, a 2018 study from researchers at Illinois Institute of Technology published in the journal Nutrients suggested eating a meal containing one half or a whole avocado compared to a meal with similar calories, but low in fat and high in carbohydrate, improved post-meal responses important for metabolic control and heart health in middle-aged, overweight/obese adults. Further, a 2014 study published in the Nutrition Journal suggested adding one-half of a fresh avocado to a lunch may help healthy, overweight people feel more satisfied and reduce their desire to eat following a meal.
In addition to nutrition, avocados also offer a lot in the way of taste and texture, and CPG brands are delivering innovative and tasty products across multiple categories. The avocado’s mild, delicate flavor and richly creamy texture can go either sweet or savory, making it an ideal substitute for dairy in plant-based versions of products that range from dressings to sauces, mayonnaise, “cheesy” snacks, ice creams, butter and even milk. The ingredient has become ubiquitous that brands are rolling out innovative products packed full of avocado goodness. Hungry for more innovative products boasting avocados superpowers? Check out “Unboxed: 12 methods to avocado madness” our sister site, newhope.com.
Content Director, Informa Markets Health & Nutrition
Judie Bizzozero oversees food and beverage content strategy and development for the Health & Nutrition group at Informa Markets (which acquired VIRGO in 2014), including the Food & Beverage Insider, Natural Products Insider and SupplySide/Food ingredients North America brands. She reports on market trends, science-based ingredients, and challenges and solutions in the development of healthy foods and beverages. Bizzozero graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
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