Recent studies have highlighted how following diets high in gluten or sugar can negatively impact consumers’ gut health, but a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois shows that there are health benefits associated with eating more avocados.
Avocados are packed with many health benefits, and this study found that eating one of them per day can greatly benefit consumers’ gut health.
“We know eating avocados helps you feel full and reduces blood cholesterol concentration, but we did not know how it influences the gut microbes, and the metabolites the microbes produce,” said researcher Sharon Thompson.
“Microbial metabolites are compounds the microbes produce that influence health,” she added. “Avocado consumption reduces bile acids and increased short chain fatty acids. These changes correlate with beneficial health outcomes.”
Improving gut health
To put avocados to the test, the researchers had 163 participants between the ages of 25 and 45 involved in a 12-week study. While the participants didn’t change their diets in a drastic way over the course of the study, the researchers did provide them with one meal each day; half of the participants received an avocado with their meal while the other half ate a similar meal without avocado. The researchers then analyzed fecal, urine, and blood samples from the participants to determine what effect the avocado had on their gut health.
“Our goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and fiber in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota,” said researcher Hanna Holscher. “We also wanted to explore the relationships between gut microbes and health outcomes.”
Ultimately, avocados were beneficial to the participants’ gut health in several ways. For starters, the researchers learned that avocados were a great source of fiber -- which many consumers are lacking in their diets.
“We can’t break down dietary fibers, but certain gut microbes can,” said Holscher. “When we consume dietary fiber, it’s a win-win for gut microbes and for us.”
Additionally, the findings revealed that avocados’ high fat content -- which benefits heart health -- is also beneficial for consumers’ gut health. The researchers found that participants who ate avocado were consuming more calories each day, but their fecal samples revealed that they were also excreting more fat.
“Greater fat excretion means the research participants were absorbing less energy from the foods they were eating,” said Holscher. “This was likely because of reductions in bile acids, which are molecules our digestion system secretes that allow us to absorb fat. We found that the amount of bile acids in stool was lower and the amount of fat in the stool was higher in the avocado group.”
Moving forward, the researchers hope that more consumers start paying attention to ways that they can improve their gut health. Avocados are a versatile food that consumers can incorporate into their daily diets that also comes with several health benefits.
“It’s just a really nicely packaged fruit that contains nutrients that are important for health,” Holscher said. “Our work shows we can add benefits to gut health to that list.”