Eating Avocado Improves Nutrient Absorption from Other Foods




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"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
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The many health benefits of avocado




June 19, 2006  
Dear Reader,

Over several centuries it's been called by many names: ahuacate, avocaat, agovago, albecatta and alligator pear. In 1519, Spanish explorer and cartographer Martin Fernandez De Encisco offered this description of the fruit with an alligator hide: "That which it contains is like butter and is of marvelous flavor, so good and pleasing to the palate that it is a marvelous thing."

He might have added that it's also a very healthy addition to warm-weather salads - especially if you happen to be exploring the tropics hundreds of years before the first air conditioner.

The A list

For many years we've heard speculation about why the Mediterranean diet tends to support heart health and prevent cancer. It could be the olive oil; it could be the abundance of fresh, uncontaminated fruits and vegetables; it could be the wine; it could be a combination of all those things.

Or it could be the avocado, a truly nutrient-dense food with an impressive list of nourishing contents:
  • Magnesium
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Vitamins B, E and K
  • Glutathione
  • Lutein
  • Monounsaturated fats
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
Adding some oomph

In 2004, researchers at Iowa State University and Ohio State University conducted a study to find out if the avocado is more than just the sum of its parts. The Ohio team set out to determine if avocado consumption improves the absorption of lycopene, lutein, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene.

The study was divided into two parts, and each part had two phases. In the first part, a group of six males and five females ate 300 grams of tomato salsa. About half of the group was given salsa that contained 150 grams of avocado (about five tablespoons), and the others ate salsa without avocado. After a washout period, the test was repeated with the subjects crossing over; those who ate avocado salsa in the first phase were served plain salsa, and vice versa. This first part of the study was designed to determine lycopene absorption.

The second part of the study was designed to determine lutein and carotene absorption. In this part, the subjects ate a salad of carrots, spinach and lettuce. For half the group, salads also contained the 150 grams of avocado. As in the first part, the groups crossed over after a washout period. During both parts of the study, the only fat source was avocado.

Blood was drawn from each subject several times after each meal to determine changes in nutrient levels for up to nine and a half hours after the meals. As in the earlier study, blood was analyzed using HPLC.

The results:
  • Subjects who ate avocado with salsa absorbed nearly 4.5 times more lycopene than those who didn't eat avocado
  • Subjects who ate avocado with salad absorbed 8.3 times more alpha-carotene and 13.6 times more beta-carotene than those who didn't eat avocado
  • More than four times as much lutein was absorbed by subjects who ate avocado with salad compared to those who ate only salad
It's all good

In e-Alerts and HSI Members Alerts we've highlighted the health benefits associated with the nutrients examined in the Ohio State study.

Lutein has been shown to support good vision and helps prevent age related macular degeneration. Good sources of lutein include spinach, eggs, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, oranges, lettuce and celery.

Many fruits and vegetables are abundant in the two carotenoids, which play a role in the prevention of cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. And lycopene (found mostly in tomatoes and watermelon) is a powerful antioxidant that promotes heart health and has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson


Tap into the minds of other health-conscious readers like yourself at the new HSI health forum:


"Avocado Increases the Bioavailability of Carotenoids from Test Meals in Humans" Presented at the 2004 Institute of Food Technologies Annual Meeting, July 12-16, Las Vegas, NV,


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