Eating one avocado per day may change the way women store belly fat, study finds

Photo (c) Grady Reese - Getty Images

Experts say the popular food item can have long-term health benefits for women

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign explored the metabolic benefits associated with regularly eating avocados

The study showed that eating one avocado per day for 12 weeks was associated with a redistribution of belly fat for women. Avocados helped lower women’s visceral fat levels, which can reduce the likelihood of several diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

“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,” said researcher Naiman Khan. “Individuals with a higher proportion of 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.” 

Making healthier choices

The researchers had 105 overweight and obese adults participate in the study. For 12 weeks, one meal a day was provided by the researchers; one group received one avocado a day for the entirety of the study, while the other group ate a similar meal without the avocado. The researchers measured the participants’ glucose tolerance and abdominal fat at the beginning and end of the 12 weeks. 

Avocados proved to be beneficial for the women involved in the study but not the men. The researchers learned that avocados were linked with a redistribution of body fat, which can ultimately reduce the risk of disease. 

Women who ate one avocado every day had lower visceral fat levels and lower ratios of the two kinds of belly fat. The researchers explained that weight loss isn’t necessarily the most important factor because the way the body stores fat can have just as much of an effect on long-term health outcomes. 

“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,” said Khan. “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.” 

Moving forward, the researchers hope to do more work on how avocados and other dietary changes can benefit consumers’ health. 

“By taking our research further, we will be able to gain a clearer picture into which types of people would benefit from incorporating avocados into their diets and deliver valuable data for health care advisers to provide patients with guidance on how to reduce fat storage and the potential dangers of diabetes,” said researcher Richard Mackenzie.  

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