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Avocados Help Control Cholesterol

Eating avocados instead of cheese, butter or other high-fat foods may help reduce cholesterol and improve your lipid profile.

Would you like to find an easy, tasty way to lower your cholesterol and benefit your heart health? Many readers would be enthusiastic about this prospect. Avocados might be one approach worth exploring.

An Avocado a Day:

Eating an avocado every day can be a healthy habit. A randomized controlled trial recruited about a thousand people with big waists who didn’t usually eat avocados (Journal of the American Heart Association, July 5, 2022).

Half of the group ate an avocado daily for six months. The researchers provided the fruit along with instructions on how to peel and eat them. They told the other half of the volunteers to continue with their ordinary diet that featured no or few avocados.

Eating Avocados Did Not Lead to Weight Gain:

At the start of the study, each participant gave blood and underwent an MRI. In addition, the scientists weighed and measured these heavy people carefully. They checked in on the volunteers each month and collected more blood tests and MRI images at the study’s end.

After six months, the avocado eaters had neither gained nor lost weight, on average. That could be surprising because they had consumed more calories. Their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were slightly lower, but the change was statistically significant. On the other hand, cholesterol levels in the control group had not changed. MRI images showed no changes in visceral fat in either group.

As the researchers note, no single food can be seen as a panacea for a poor diet, but consuming avocados had modest benefits. A few readers have offered their experience consuming avocados to lower cholesterol.

Should You Really Avoid Avocado?

Q. My cholesterol is elevated, and my doctor has given me a list of foods to avoid. One of them is avocado, which I love.

Some friends have told me avocados are fine even if you have high cholesterol. Who is right?

A. We side with your friends. Researchers noted that avocados lower LDL cholesterol and studied “whether a healthy diet with 1 avocado daily” would reduce dangerous oxidized LDL cholesterol (Journal of Nutrition, Feb. 1, 2020).  They invited 45 overweight men and women to follow three different diets for five weeks each: a low-fat diet, a moderate fat diet and a diet containing one avocado daily. The avocado diet lowered oxidated LDL better than the other diets and reduced small, dense LDL particles. This sounds like a win.

Food Instead of Statins:

Q. I have had high cholesterol for many years, mostly around 335. Statin drugs to lower it produced unpleasant side effects.

I read about avocados lowering cholesterol in your column and I love them! So for two months I ate one every week.

When I had my blood work done, the doctor even called me at home in the evening to give me the report. He was amazed at how well I am doing.

My cholesterol count is now 215. The doctor says to keep it up.

A. Seven months ago we heard from a reader that eating an avocado every week helped lower his cholesterol from over 200 to 176. We are pleased to learn that this also worked for you.

The Science on Avocados for Cholesterol:

Research in rats has shown that adding this fruit to the diet can improve desirable HDL cholesterol (Archivos de Cardiologia de Mexico, Mar. 2007). An early clinical trial in humans suggested that an avocado-enriched diet could help lower total and LDL cholesterol while it raised HDL cholesterol (Archives of Medical Research, Winter 1996).

A meta-analysis found that avocados raise HDL but don’t lower LDL or total cholesterol (Mahmassani et al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 1, 2018). On the other hand, a different analysis determined that eating avocado instead of other fatty foods lowered total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides significantly (Peou et al, Journal of Clinical Lipidology, Jan-Feb. 2016).

Avocados are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, the same type found in olive oil. You seem to have found a delicious way to control your cholesterol. For other ideas, see our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Lichenstein AH et al, "Effect of incorporating 1 avocado per day versus habitual diet on visceral adiposity: A randomized trial." Journal of the American Heart Association, July 5, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.122.025657
  • Wang L et al, "A moderate-fat diet with one avocado per day increases plasma antioxidants and decreases the oxidation of small, dense LDL in adults with overweight and obesity: A randomized controlled trial." Journal of Nutrition, Feb. 1, 2020. DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxz231
  • Mahmassani HA et al, "Avocado consumption and risk factors for heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 1, 2018. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqx078
  • Peou S et al, "Impact of avocado-enriched diets on plasma lipoproteins: A meta-analysis." Journal of Clinical Lipidology, Jan-Feb. 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.jacl.2015.10.011
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