Studies find avocado could have even more health benefits
- Eating one fresh avocado daily for six months improved working memory and problem-solving skills in 40 healthy adults aged 50 and older, according to research from Tufts University published in the journal Nutrients. Researchers reported study participants developed 25% more lutein in their eyes. Lutein accumulates in the blood, eye and brain and may act as an anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant.
- A separate study found avocado seed husks, typically tossed out with the seed, contain chemical compounds with potential value in medical and industrial applications. As reported by Ingredients Network, researchers at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley identified 116 compounds in the husk oil and 16 in the husk wax, many of which don't appear to be in the seeds.
- Popularity of the fatty green fruit is at an all-time high, resulting in record consumption — and prices. A diminished California crop has increased imports. The average weekly U.S. avocado consumption of 42 million pounds has nearly doubled in the past three years and is projected to hit 50 million pounds per week in 2019.
The Tufts study is likely to enhance avocado's already well-established nutritional reputation since it suggests additional benefits for human eye and brain health. Lead investigator Elizabeth Johnson said in a statement the research findings indicate "a balanced diet that includes fresh avocados may be an effective strategy for cognitive health."
The Texas researchers found chemical compounds in the avocado seed husk oil that may lend themselves to anti-viral medications, tumor cell inhibitors and atherosclerosis risk reduction. In the wax, they detected a plasticizer that promotes flexibility in synthetic products such as shower curtains and medical devices, a cosmetic chemical, and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), used as a food additive.
“It could very well be that avocado seed husks, which most people consider as the waste of wastes, are actually the gem of gems because the medicinal compounds within them could eventually be used to treat cancer, heart disease and other conditions,” Debasish Bandyopadhyay, a researcher at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, told Ingredients Network. “Our results also suggest that the seed husks are a potential source of chemicals used in plastics and other industrial products.”
While California produces nearly all the U.S. avocado crop, drought and heat have reduced this year's harvest by nearly half. Retailers have been stocking their shelves in recent years with more of the fruit to meet the public's growing demand. Trader Joe's even managed to capitalize on some smaller products resulting from the relatively poor crop this year by offering "Teeny Tiny Avocados" for $2.69 to $2.99 per six-count bag. These smaller avocados were touted as "just the right size" for use on a sandwich, avocado toast, or to mix into a salad.
Avocados star in an increasing array of trendy foods — guacamole, oil, ice cream, salads and avocado toast. They also play supporting roles in cosmetic uses such as lotions, facial masks and hair conditioners.
Their popularity stems from this versatility but also from astute marketing that has gradually positioned the avocado as the modern and healthy food to serve. Health benefits stem from a high level of monounsatured fat, plus significant amounts of potassium, fiber, folate and other essential vitamins and minerals.
Food manufacturers also have taken note. Hormel Foods bought Fresherized Foods — the makers of Wholly Guacamole, along with salsa and queso products — in 2011 in a joint venture with Mexico-based Herdez Del Fuerte. The products are part of the venture's freestanding MegaMex Foods entity in Chino, California. Even a San Francisco finance company temporarily hopped on the avocado bandwagon by offering those who bought a home with them in July a month's worth of avocado toast delivered to their door.