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In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on Wednesday, the authors found that the replacement of margarine, butter, egg, yogurt, cheese and processed meats with avocado was also beneficial for the heart.
The study examined data from more than 68,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and more than 41,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow‐up Study who were free of cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke at baseline.
Diet was assessed using questionnaires at baseline and then periodically every four years.
A total of 14,274 incident cases of cardiovascular disease – including 9,185 coronary heart disease events and 5,290 strokes – were documented over 30 years of follow‐up.
After adjusting for lifestyle and other dietary factors, consumers who ate avocados two or more times a week had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease compared with those who did not eat avocados. No significant associations were found for stroke.
Replacing half a serving per day of margarine, butter, egg, yogurt, cheese or processed meats with the equivalent amount of avocado was associated with a 16% to 22% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
In estimating the risk of total cardiovascular disease when substituting half a serving of avocado for the equivalent amount of other types of fat‐containing foods, the researchers wrote that avocados were not associated with cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.
“Although we observed a significantly higher risk of stroke when substituting all other plant oils for avocado, this result may be attributable to chance because of the several different replacement foods and outcomes we have examined,” they noted.
The findings, they said, were important for public health recommendations – especially considering that the consumption of avocado has risen steeply in the U.S. over the past 20 years.
Limitations to the study include that dietary information was self-reported, that misclassification is a possibility, that a causal association cannot be established and residual confounding cannot be completely ruled out, that study population consisted primarily of non-Hispanic White nurses and health professionals and that it is possible some statistical tests conducted were by chance – though the primary outcome results remained unchanged after correcting for multiple testing.
“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 in the general population. Further studies are needed to assess the impact and effectiveness of avocado intake in reducing incident [cardiovascular disease] and [cardiovascular disease] risk factors,” they said.
Avocados have healthy fats, but they are not a low-calorie food.
Each one typically has between 200 and 300 calories, depending on its size.