Eating fresh avocado instead of refined carbohydrates can enhance satiety and meal satisfaction in overweight and obese adults, researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology's Center for Nutrition Research found. The study suggested simple dietary alterations can help manage hunger and assist with metabolic control.
The researchers noted that while fats and carbohydrates have been viewed as causes of obesity, it was time to take another look at how satiety and food intake control are handled by different groups. They also said additional research in overweight and obese populations involving avocados and other foods containing fat and fiber would be helpful.
The study also found an intestinal hormone called PYY "was an important messenger of the physiological response," the IIT release said. The study was supported by the Hass Avocado Board and published in the journal Nutrients.
When fresh avocados are swapped out for refined carbohydrates, this study suggests the combination of fat and fiber can play an appetite-suppressing role as well as enhance metabolic functions.
Britt Burton-Freeman, director of IIT's Center for Nutrition Research and a member of Avocado Nutrition Science Advisory, told Food Navigator that fats and some fibers delay gastric emptying, slow nutrient absorption, regulate glucose and insulin responses, and alter gut hormones that play a role in feeling full.
Avocado's health benefits stem from a high level of monounsatured fat, plus significant amounts of potassium, fiber, folate and other essential vitamins and minerals.
They appear in an increasing array of trendy foods — guacamole, oil, chips, ice cream, salads and toast, to name a few — and they also play supporting roles in cosmetic uses such as lotions, facial masks and hair conditioners. Their popularity comes from their versatility but also from astute marketing that has gradually positioned the avocado as a modern and healthy food to serve.
That popularity is higher than ever, resulting in record avocado consumption — and prices. And since California is anticipating its smallest crop in 10 years this season because of high temperatures, prices and imports are likely to go up even more. 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 this year.
While the IIT study probably won't improve on the avocado's sterling reputation, it could change what has previously been thought about the role of fat and fiber in suppressing hunger. It also might cause consumers to take another look at fruits and vegetables such as apples, oranges and salads — all of which contain fiber and water and score high on the satiety index.
If manufacturers can take the qualities giving avocados the ability to help people feel fuller and put them into other products, it could prove to be a helpful tool to reduce obesity and improve overall health. It could also serve as a potentially lucrative marketing tool to help these items stand out on store shelves.