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Keeping ‘bad cholesterol’ at bay may be as simple as consuming one avocado a day, according to the results of research conducted by scientists at Pennsylvania State University. Specifically, the study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found that daily avocado consumption helped reduce LDL particles that had been oxidized.

“A lot of research points to oxidation being the basis for conditions like cancer and heart disease,” said study coauthor Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition, in a press release. “We know that when LDL particles become oxidized, that starts a chain reaction that can promote atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of plaque in the artery wall. Oxidation is not good, so if you can help protect the body through the foods that you eat, that could be very beneficial."

During the study, 45 adult participants who were overweight or obese followed a two-week “run-in” diet that mimicked an average American diet. Each participant then completed five weeks of three different treatment diets in a randomized order. Diets included low-fat, moderate-fat, and moderate-fat with one avocado a day. The moderate-fat diet without avocados was supplemented with extra healthy fats to match the amount of monounsaturated fatty acids that would be obtained from the avocados.

After five weeks on the avocado diet, participants had significantly lower levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol than before the study or after completing the low- and moderate-fat diets. Participants also had higher levels of lutein, an antioxidant that, noted Kris-Etherton, “may be the bioactive that’s protecting the LDL from being oxidized.”

The researchers added that because the moderate-fat diet without avocados included the same monounsaturated fatty acids found in avocados, it is likely that the fruit has additional bioactives that contributed to the benefits of the avocado diet.

Although the results of the study are promising, Kris-Etherton noted that more research needs to be done. “Nutrition research on avocados is a relatively new area of study, so I think we’re at the tip of the iceberg for learning about their health benefits,” she explained. “Avocados are really high in healthy fats, carotenoids—which are important for eye health—and other nutrients. They are such a nutrient-dense package, and I think we’re just beginning to learn about how they can improve health.”

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