Obesity epidemic
Obese people have higher levels of the bad cholesterol that places them at high cardiovascular risk Reuters

Eating an avocado a day can help people lower their bad cholesterol levels, according to new research.

The researchers, whose study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that daily consumption of one avocado can cut total cholesterol levels, as well as triglycerides, small dense LDL, non-HDL cholesterol, and others.

The study also found unsaturated fatty acids from avocados reduce cardiovascular risk factors when replacing saturated fatty acids in the regular American diet.

Compared with the baseline average American diet, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, was significantly lower by 13.5 mg/dL in people whose diets include a daily avocado.

Forty-five healthy, overweight or obese patients between the ages of 21 and 70 were put for five weeks on three different cholesterol-lowering diets - a lower-fat diet without avocado, moderate-fat diet without avocado, and moderate-fat diet with one avocado per day.

Participants consumed an average American diet (consisting of 34% of calories from fat, 51% carbohydrates and 16% protein) for two weeks prior to starting one of the cholesterol-lowering diets.

The two moderate fat diets both provided 34% of calories as fat (17% of calories from monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), whereas the lower fat diet provided 24% of calories as fat (11% from MUFAs).

Besides the MUFAs, avocados also provided other bioactive components that could have contributed to the findings such as fibre, phytosterols, and other compounds.

Many heart-healthy diets recommend replacing saturated fatty acids with MUFAs or polyunsaturated fatty acids as saturated fats can increase bad cholesterol levels and raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Other than avocados, MUFAs can be got from Canola oil, nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans and macadamias; nut butters; olive oil; olives and peanut oil.

But moderation is the key word, cautions Mayo Clinic, when noting all fats, including MUFAs, are high in calories.

A Mediterranean diet considerably low in fat and laden with fruit and vegetables, nuts and olive oil has been shown to not only reduce weight but help reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.