Avocados could be good for gut health: New Zealand research

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

The research showed higher concentrations of defensins in the gut tissues of the avocado-fed rats. ©iStock
The research showed higher concentrations of defensins in the gut tissues of the avocado-fed rats. ©iStock
New research shows avocados may be good for gut health — a previously unknown benefit — by increasing short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production.

Scientists at New Zealand's Plant & Food Research said avocados were known to contain compounds that support cardiovascular health, blood glucose regulation and have anti-inflammatory effects.

Therefore, researchers Gunaranjan Paturi, Christine Butts and Kerry Bentley-Hewitt decided to see what impact they might have on gut health.

Their study, funded as part of MBIE’s Food for Health programme and published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition​, is believed to be the first to examine the direct effect of avocados on gut health.

The team fed rats different diets that included 5%, 10% or 15% avocado for six weeks.

Dr Paturi says they were surprised to find the avocado had no noticeable effect on bacterial populations in the rats’ guts compared with the control.

But their study did find other beneficial health effects.

The gut bacteria metabolised the dietary fibre in the avocado to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) as a result of fermentation.

SCFAs are associated with a number of health benefits including the stimulation of cells to produce antimicrobial peptides called defensins, which play an important role in immune protection.

Goblet cell fuel

The research showed higher concentrations of defensins in the gut tissues of the avocado-fed rats.

SCFAs are also the fuel for goblet cells, which produce mucus in a healthy gut that protect gut tissue. The team found significantly more goblet cells in the gut wall in rats on the 15% avocado diet. Dr Paturi says this finding implies avocado also positively influences gut mucus secretion. 

The paper also found that avocado-fed rats had significantly higher food intakes while their body weights remained similar to the control diet-fed rats.

“The percentage of avocado in the diet had varying effects in altering the biomarkers, whereby diet containing 15% avocado was the more effective diet. This study delivers new knowledge on the role of avocado on gut health in rats,” ​it concluded.

New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular said the study “potentially opens the door to a whole new area of benefit we hadn’t seen before.

“It would be great to see this research followed up to find out if it translates into real benefits for human gut health,”​ she added. 

Source: Plant Foods for Human Nutrition

doi:10.1007/s11130-017-0614-5

"Influence of Dietary Avocado on Gut Health in Rats"

Authors: Gunaranjan Patur, et al.

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