The Hass Avocado Board (HAB) is supporting research to improve understanding of the unique, positive benefits of consuming fresh avocados to human health and nutrition. Clinical studies are currently underway to investigate the relationship between avocado consumption and risk factors for cardiovascular disease, avocados' potential positive role in weight management and diabetes, and avocados' ability to enhance nutrient absorption. In November 2012, the first study supported by the HAB and conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Hass Avocado Modulates Postprandial Vascular Reactivity and Postprandial Inflammatory Responses to a Hamburger Meal in Healthy Volunteers, was published in the journal Food and Function.
This UCLA pilot study on 11 healthy men (18-35 years old,) on two separate occasions, found that eating one-half of a fresh medium Hass avocado with a burger (90 percent lean), rather than eating a burger alone, may curb the production of compounds that contribute to inflammation. Inflammation is a risk factor that may be associated with heart disease.
Specifically, the pilot study of 11 healthy men suggests that fresh Hass avocado, when eaten with a burger may neutralize Interleukin-6 (IL-6)-a protein that is a measure of inflammation-compared to eating a burger without fresh avocado. The researchers observed a significant peak (approximately a 70 percent increase), of IL-6 four hours after the plain burger was eaten, but little effect on IL-6 (approximately a 40 percent increase) over the same time period when fresh avocado was eaten with the burger. Additionally, the study found that when fresh Hass avocado was eaten with the burger it did not increase triglyceride levels beyond what was observed after eating the burger alone, despite the extra calories and fat from the fresh avocado. Elevated triglyceride levels are associated with heart disease.
The pilot study also reported that the difference in peripheral arterial blood flow (the movement of blood to different parts of the body, as measured by PAT), a predictor of vascular health, after eating the hamburger meal compared to the hamburger-fresh avocado meal was approaching statistical significance (P=.052). PAT scores significantly decreased (signifying reduced blood flow) only after the plain burger was eaten (approximately a 27 percent drop, on average) compared to a burger with fresh avocado (approximately a 4 percent drop, on average, signifying less reduction in blood flow). This suggests the addition of the fresh avocado may have mitigated a larger reduction in blood flow. However, additional studies are needed.
These are initial findings from a single study of 11 healthy men that provide promising clues and a basis for future research to determine whether avocados can play a role in the areas of vascular health and heart health. "This study supports the hypothesis that fresh Hass avocado, may help support normal vascular function, which is important for heart health," said David Heber, MD, PhD, primary investigator of the study. "After eating a burger with one-half of a fresh medium Hass avocado, some of the after-meal effects observed after eating the plain burger, specifically inflammation and narrowing blood vessels, were reduced within hours, and triglycerides did not increase beyond what was observed after eating the burger alone.