An avo a day equals a happy gut

Wednesday, 06 January, 2021

An avo a day equals a happy gut

Eating avocado as part of your daily diet can help improve gut health, according to new research.

The University of Illinois study found people who ate avocado every day as part of a meal had a greater abundance of gut microbes that break down fibre and produce metabolites that support gut health.

Researcher Sharon Thompson said while it is known that avocados are a healthy food that is high in dietary fibre and monounsaturated fat, it is still unclear how avocados impact the microbes in the gastrointestinal system.

"We know eating avocados helps you feel full and reduces blood cholesterol concentration, but we did not know how it influences the gut microbes, and the metabolites the microbes produce," Thompson said.

"Microbial metabolites are compounds the microbes produce that influence health. Avocado consumption reduced bile acids and increased short-chain fatty acids. These changes correlate with beneficial health outcomes."

Daily avocado eaters also had greater microbial diversity compared to people who did not receive the avocado meals in the study.

The study included 163 adults between 25 and 45 years of age with obesity or overweight — defined as a BMI of at least 25 kg/m2 — but otherwise healthy. They received one meal per day as a replacement for either breakfast, lunch or dinner. One group consumed an avocado with each meal, while the control group consumed a similar meal without the avocado. The participants provided blood, urine and faecal samples throughout the 12-week study. They also reported how much of the provided meals they consumed, and every four weeks 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 consumed their regular diets except for replacing one meal per day with the researchers' meal.

Lead researcher Hannah Holscher said the purpose of this study was to explore the effects of avocado consumption on the gastrointestinal microbiota.

"Our goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fibre in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota. We also wanted to explore the relationships between gut microbes and health outcomes," Holscher said.

Avocados are rich 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 their stool.

"Greater fat excretion means the research participants were absorbing less energy from the foods that they were eating. This was likely because of reductions in bile acids, which are molecules our digestion system secretes that allow us to absorb fat. We found that the amount of bile acids in stool was lower and the amount of fat in the stool was higher in the avocado group," Holscher said.

Different types of fats have differential effects on the microbiome. The fats in avocados are monounsaturated, which are heart-healthy fats.

"It's just a really nicely packaged fruit that contains nutrients that are important for health. Our work shows we can add benefits to gut health to that list," Holscher said.

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