Avocados: The Inflammation Fighter Posted on 08 Mar 09:00 , 0 comments

Photo courtesy of Food & Function.

New findings of the important link between inflammation and disease continue to be uncovered by researchers. Chronic inflammation is known to increase your risk of arthritis, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and many other diseases. Fortunately, you have a great deal of control over your disease risk. The most important decisions you make are in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

Certain foods are more likely to contribute to the inflammation that can lead to disease. Processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and grilled meats all raise a protein - Interleukin-6 (IL-6) - that is a marker of inflammation.  Maintaining consistently high levels of this inflammatory protein is associated with disease risk.

According to research by University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) scientists published in Food and Function, blood levels of IL-6 rise within about four hours after consuming foods that cause this inflammatory response.

The Positive Role of Avocado

Just as certain foods can increase inflammatory IL-6 protein levels, others can help reduce it. During the aforementioned UCLA study, two groups of participants were created. All participants were males between the ages of 18 and 35.

The first group ate a grilled hamburger made of 90 percent lean beef. The second group ate the same grilled burger but also ate half of a medium-sized avocado. The burger-only group experienced a spike in IL-6 levels by 70 percent, elevated triglycerides, and a 27 percent decrease in peripheral blood. The elevated triglycerides and reduced peripheral blood flow are both significant factors in causing heart attack or stroke.

Fortunately, the findings in the avocado group were dramatically better. When the participants ate half of an avocado along with the hamburger, their IL-6 levels rose by only 40 percent. Furthermore, there was virtually no decrease in the peripheral blood flow.

Dr. David Heber, MD, PhD, the study’s lead researcher, said, “This study supports the hypothesis that fresh Hass avocado, may help support normal vascular function, which is important for heart health. After eating a burger with one-half of a fresh medium Hass avocado, some of the after-meal effects observed after eating the plain burger, specifically inflammation and narrowing blood vessels, were reduced within hours, and triglycerides did not increase beyond what was observed after eating the burger alone.”

Putting It into Practice

We know that a healthy diet is about balance. It can be difficult, and sometimes unrealistic, to stay on course with a restrictive diet. A great alternative is to add healthy foods, such as avocados, to the diet creating a more holistic picture of total nutrition and wellness. More emphasis should be placed on what we add to a healthy diet than what we take away.

Incorporating avocado in your diet is beneficial for many reasons. The naturally high antioxidant levels found in this fruit is believed to be the driver of the anti-inflammatory response after consuming a food that contains high levels of the negative IL-6 proteins. The effect on triglycerides shows that after consuming a burger alone, the arteries are more constricted, but the addition of avocado keeps blood vessels open and allows blood to flow freely throughout. We may even be able to point to the good fats in avocado as the reason for the beneficial effects on blood vessels.

Nutritional research continues to highlight the positive benefits of avocado in particular. In addition to the anti-inflammatory properties, the high fat content in avocado turns out to have very protective effects and may help the body to better absorb nutrients from other foods and to reduce the inflammation associated with eating certain foods.  Next time you feel like having a burger, you don’t have to say no – just be sure to enjoy it with a side of avocado.