We all have different gut microbiomes, but eating avocado as part of a daily diet is a sure way to improve gut health, a new study from researchers at the University of Illinois shows.
Avocados are a healthy food high in dietary fiber and monounsaturated fats. However, it was not clear how avocados impact microbes in the gastrointestinal or “gut” system.
The researchers found that people who ate avocado every day as part of a meal had a greater abundance of gut microbes that break down fiber and produce metabolites that support gut health. They also had greater microbial diversity compared to the people who didn’t get the avocado meals in the study.
“Microbial metabolites are compounds produced by microbes that influence health,” says lead author Sharon Thompson. “Avocado consumption reduced bile acids and increased short chain fatty acids. These changes are correlated with beneficial health outcomes. “
The study included 163 adults between the ages of 25 and 45 who were overweight or obese, defined as a BMI of at least 25 kg / m2, but otherwise healthy.
They received one meal per day to consume as a replacement for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. One group consumed an avocado with each meal, while the control group consumed a similar meal but without the avocado. Participants provided blood, urine, and stool samples during the 12-week study. They also reported how much of the provided meals they consumed and every four weeks they recorded everything they ate.
While other research on avocado consumption has focused on weight loss, participants in this study were not advised to restrict or change what they ate. Instead, they ate their normal diets with the exception of replacing one meal per day with the food the researchers provided.
The purpose of this study, published in the Nutrition Magazine–was to explore the effects of avocado consumption on the gastrointestinal microbiota, says Hannah Holscher, assistant professor of nutrition in the U of I Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and lead author of the study.
“Our goal was to test the hypothesis that avocado fats and fiber positively affect the gut microbiota. We also wanted to explore the relationships between gut microbes and health outcomes, ”says Holscher.
Avocados are high in fat; however, the researchers found that while the avocado group consumed slightly more calories than the control group, slightly more fat was excreted in the stool.
“Higher fat excretion means that the research participants were absorbing less energy from the food they were eating. This was probably due to the reduction of bile acids, which are molecules that our digestion system secretes and that allow us to absorb fat. We found that the amount of bile acids in the stool was lower and the amount of fat in the stool was higher in the avocado group, ”Holscher explains.
Different types of fats have differential effects on the microbiome. The fats in avocados are monounsaturated, which are heart-healthy fats.
Soluble fiber content is also very important, Holscher notes. One medium avocado provides around 12 grams of fiber, which goes a long way toward reaching the recommended amount of 28 to 34 grams of fiber per day.
Less than 5% of Americans get enough fiber. Most people consume between 12 and 16 grams of fiber a day. So incorporating avocados into your diet can help you get closer to meeting the fiber recommendation, “he says.
Eating fiber is not only good for us; it’s also important to the microbiome, Holscher says. “We cannot break down dietary fibers, but certain gut microbes can. When we consume dietary fiber, it is beneficial for our gut microbes and for us. “
Holscher’s research laboratory specializes in dietary modulation of the microbiome and its connections to health. “Just as we think about heart-healthy foods, we must also think about gut-healthy foods and how to feed the microbiota,” he explains.
Avocado is an energy-dense food, but it is also rich in nutrients and contains important micronutrients that Americans don’t get enough of, such as potassium and fiber.
“It is simply a very well packaged fruit that contains nutrients that are important for health. Our work shows that we can add gut health benefits to that list, ”says Holscher.
Source: University of Illinois