Avocado seed husk may help to treat heart disease, cancer

From lowering cholesterol to aiding weight loss, the potential benefits of avocado consumption have been well documented. A new study, however, suggests that further rewards could be reaped from a part of the fruit that we normally discard: the husk of the seed.

Researchers found that avocado seed husks contain a variety of chemical compounds that could help to kill viruses, combat heart problems, and even treat cancer.

Study co-author Debasish Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D., of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, and colleagues recently reported their findings at the 254th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, held in Washington, D.C.

Avocados are fast becoming one of the United States' favorite fruits. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, avocado consumption in the country has more than doubled over the past decade, and we are now eating almost four times as many avocados than we were in the mid-1990s.

The benefits of avocado

Given the many health benefits associated with avocado intake, it is no wonder the fruit has seen a rise in popularity.

A study reported by Medical News Today in 2015, for example, associated avocado intake with lower levels of "bad" cholesterol in people who are overweight or obese, while other research has linked avocado consumption with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.

Of course, such benefits are based on the consumption of avocado flesh, since the skin and seed of the fruit are usually discarded. The new study, however, suggests that when we throw away the latter, we may be discarding the most valuable component.

Dr. Bandyopadhyay and colleagues came to their findings by grounding down around 300 dried avocado seed husks, which is the skin that coats the seeds.

The grounding process resulted in 21 ounces of avocado seed husk powder. Further processing of the powder resulted in three teaspoons of seed husk oil and just over one teaspoon of seed husk wax.

The team then used chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis to pinpoint the chemical compounds present in the seed husk oil and wax.

Avocado seed husk: The 'gem of gems'?

In total, the researchers identified 116 compounds in the avocado seed husk oil, many of which could be beneficial to human health, and many of which could not be found in the avocado seed itself.

Some compounds of particular interest in the seed husk oil were behenyl alcohol, dodecanoic acid, and heptacosane. Behenyl alcohol is used in antiviral medication, dodecanoic acid is known to boost "good" cholesterol, and heptacosane has shown promise for killing tumors.

Additionally, the team identified compounds in avocado seed husk wax that are used as food additives - such as butylated hydroxytoluene - and in cosmetic products, including bis(2-butoxyethyl) phthalate.

The researchers now plan to modify some of the chemical compounds they identified in avocado seed husk oil, with the aim of developing new, safer medications.

"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, Ph.D.