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Regularly eating avocado linked to lower diabetes risk in women

close-up of hand holding up an avocado
A recent study from Mexico links avocado consumption with a lower diabetes risk. Image credit: Tatiana Maksimova/Getty Images.
  • Avocados are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats that can support metabolic health and insulin sensitivity. 
  • A new study suggests avocado consumption may significantly reduce diabetes risk, particularly among women.
  • Experts recommend a balanced and diverse diet rather than overemphasizing specific foods for diabetes prevention. However, including avocados can be a healthy choice.

New research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests a potential association between avocado consumption and diabetes risk among Mexican adults. 

Diabetes is the second leading cause of death in Mexico, affecting around 15.2% of adults Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source (12.8 million).

To investigate the relationship between avocado consumption and diabetes risk, researchers studied mostly self-reported dietary habits and diabetes diagnosis information from survey responses of a portion of the Mexican population. The majority of these respondents were classified as having overweight or obesity.

The results showed that women who consumed avocados were less likely to develop diabetes than those who did not eat them. This connection, however, was not observed in men.

Studying avocado consumption and diabetes risk  

This study analyzed data on Mexican adults aged 20 and older from the Mexican National Survey of Health and Nutrition (ENSANUT) years 2012, 2016, and 2018.

After excluding specific individuals, such as those who were pregnant or breastfeeding, and those with missing or unreliable data regarding diabetes and avocado intake, the final sample included 25,640 participants.

Approximately 59% were female, and more than 60% had abdominal obesity. 

In the surveys, dietary information was assessed using a 7-day food-frequency questionnaire to determine avocado consumption habits, and participants were strictly classified as avocado consumers (consuming any amount of avocado) or non-consumers.

The presence of diabetes was primarily identified through self-reported diagnoses, with a portion of the participants using clinical measures of blood sugar levels to confirm diabetes cases. 

The participants also self-reported demographic and cardiometabolic risk factors such as age, sex, socioeconomic level, education, body mass index (BMI), abdominal obesity, healthy eating index (HEI-2015) score, calorie intake, lifestyle habits, and pre-existing conditions. 

However, trained personnel measured the participants’ weight, height, and waist circumference.

Upon gathering the survey data, the researchers analyzed it using descriptive statistics and logistic regression models to investigate the link between avocado consumption and diabetes risk among the adult population in Mexico.

Eating avocado tied to lower diabetes risk in women

Among the participants, about 45% reported consuming avocados, with average daily intakes of 34.7 grams (g) for men and 29.8 g for women. 

Those who ate avocados generally had higher levels of education and belonged to a higher socioeconomic class than those who did not consume avocados. 

Additionally, over three-quarters of avocado consumers resided in urban areas. 

Across both genders, avocado eaters also tended to have slightly higher scores on the healthy eating index, indicating a somewhat more nutritious diet overall.

These findings suggest that individuals who consumed avocados likely had greater access to and resources for healthier food options. It is important to note, however, that the study’s adjusted models considered and accounted for these factors. 

In women, avocado consumers showed a 22% and 29% lower risk of developing diabetes in unadjusted and adjusted models, respectively. However, this protective effect of avocado consumption was not observed in men.

This relationship remained consistent when laboratory-confirmed diabetes diagnoses were used instead of self-reported diagnoses. 

How might avocados contribute to lower diabetes risk?

Medical News Today spoke with Avantika Waring, MD, a board-certified physician in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism, and chief medical officer at 9amHealth, not involved in the study, about how avocados may reduce diabetes risk among women. 

Waring explained:

“There are a few potential ways that avocado consumption could lower risk of diabetes in women, including the presence of antioxidants which can reduce inflammation and cellular damage that would otherwise increase the risk of conditions like diabetes. Avocados, being high in fat and fiber, also have a low glycemic index, and therefore don’t promote spikes in glucose and the resulting rise in insulin levels that are metabolically unfavorable.”

She pointed out, though, that these mechanisms are speculative, and suggested that the high fiber and healthy fats in avocados could also promote fullness, subsequently decreasing the intake of less nutritious foods.

Thomas M. Holland, MD, MS, physician-scientist at the RUSH Institute for Healthy Aging, Rush University System for Health, not involved in the study, similarly highlighted that avocados, rich in “insulin-sensitizing nutrients,” could potentially stabilize the diabetic disease process. 

“However, it remains a challenge to precisely determine why the association was observed only in women and not in men,” he said. 

He proposed that various factors might influence the disease course in women, including sex differences in diabetes Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that are related to hormonal changes across the lifespan, genetic and environmental factors, and psychosocial stressors that uniquely impact women’s diabetes risk.

Waring concurred, emphasizing the significant hormonal shifts women experience during key life stages. “During pregnancy, women become more insulin resistant for example, and during menopause as estrogen levels drop, body fat patterns change in women that can result in a higher risk of diabetes,” she said. 

Ultimately, it is unclear what caused the sex differences in avocado consumption’s impact on diabetes risk in this study, highlighting the need for further research on sex-specific dietary interventions and personalized nutrition recommendations.

Should we eat more avocados to lower risk of diabetes? 

Eliza Whitaker, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and medical nutrition advisor at Dietitian Insights, who was not involved in the study, noted the study’s major limitation in broadly categorizing avocado consumers, making it hard to determine the beneficial amount of avocado intake. 

She mentioned that lumping occasional and frequent avocado consumers together complicates understanding the precise impact on diabetes risk. 

As far as we can tell, based on current science, she said: “Avocados may be associated with a lower risk of diabetes, but avocados alone aren’t enough to reduce that risk. We have to look at the diet as a whole when it comes to reducing the risk of developing diabetes.” 

Waring echoed this sentiment, suggesting the study supports the consumption of unprocessed, heart-healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, for better metabolic health but doesn’t result in specific dietary guidance regarding avocado consumption.

Overall, “maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with diet being one component, enhances an individual’s ability to take control of their disease process,” Holland added, emphasizing a holistic approach to disease prevention.

Although the study cannot be used to draw definitive conclusions about avocado consumption and diabetes risk, Holland suggested the associations it reveals still carry significant weight. 

Regarding whether individuals should incorporate avocados to reduce diabetes risk, Holland concluded:

“Considering the abundance and diversity of nutrients found in avocados, there is compelling evidence that incorporating them into a healthier diet, such as the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet, or MIND diet, is strongly recommended for diabetes management.”

This article originally appeared on Medical News Today.

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