Though humans have eaten them for thousands of years, avocados have recently been hailed as a “superfood,” a term used to describe foods that are packed with nutrients or have other essential health qualities. They are so popular, particularly among millennials, that people often joke that more money is spent on this green powerfood than is saved for a down payment on a new house. As a superfood, avocados have a nutrient-dense profile, with particularly high concentrations of healthy monounsaturated fats (the good fats). Certain berries, green tea, and darky, leafy green vegetables, among others, are also noted as superfoods with important health benefits.
In addition to being a food packed with powerful nutrients, the avocado may also help change how the body distributes and stores fat in and around the belly, which may reduce an individual's risk of developing conditions like diabetes.
According to new research published in the Journal of Nutrition, a randomized-controlled study examined participants who received an avocado at one meal a day for 12 weeks compared to participants who received a similar meal but without avocado. Researchers sought to understand how eating avocados could change the way fat is distributed around the abdomen. According to Naiman Khan, the study’s lead author, the research team’s focus was “understanding what eating an avocado does to the way individuals store their body fat. The location of fat in the body plays an important role in health.” Specifically, the research team looked at the effects avocados could have on visceral adipose tissue (VAT), the fat below the surface of your skin. Accumulation of this type of fat could cause a range of metabolic health problems, such as diabetes, because it increases insulin resistance. Understanding ways to change where fat is stored, such as through diet, could improve health outcomes.
A key finding from the study was that women who received avocados regularly showed a greater reduction in VAT. The research team speculated that part of the connection between avocado consumption and VAT could be the high levels of fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados.
There was no observable change between control and treatment group for men, though the research team did note that more research was needed to understand fat distribution changes between sexes.
The research team also collected blood samples to study how avocados might affect insulin sensitivity, but found no meaningful correlation.