photo of avocados in a white wire basketShare on Pinterest
Recent research finds a link between avocado consumption and better blood sugar management. Image credit: Maria Korneeva/Getty Images.
  • Avocados may significantly improve blood sugar control for some people, though not everyone, a new study suggests.
  • The study observed that for people with a newly identified metabolic biomarker of avocado intake, there is a strong association with decreased fasting glucose and fasting insulin, and a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.
  • The study of body metabolites, or metabolomics, along with the study of one’s microbiome, may lead to a new era of personalized nutrition.

A study investigating an association between the consumption of avocados and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes found only a weak correlation between avocado intake and lower fasting insulin, with the association becoming nonsignificant once body mass index (BMI) was considered.

However, the authors of the study identified the presence of an “avocado intake biomarker” in some people that was significantly associated with lower fasting glucose and lower fasting insulin, as well as a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study findings suggest that individualized metabolic profiling may be key to identifying those foods that may reliably aid a person’s health.

Metabolites are small molecule products that result from metabolic reactions within cells, tissue, or an organism.

Metabolomics is the systematic study of the body’s chemical processes that involve metabolites. It allows researchers to identify distinct fingerprints that can be associated with specific cellular processes.

The study suggests that the metabolome may, together with the better-known microbiome, be key in developing targeted, personalized health interventions.

The study was funded by a grant from The Hass Avocado Board, and it appears in The Journal of Nutrition.

The study is based on data from 6,220 adults, aged 45 to 84 years, who participated in the ongoing Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Recruitment occurred at six sites across the United States between 2000 and 2002, and the participants were followed up every 18 months up to 2018.

Individuals reported their intake of avocados, in addition to over 100 other foods from 47 food groups.

For 3,438 of these individuals, data included metabolomic profiles derived from fasting serum samples taken at recruitment and subsequently analyzed using proton nuclear magnetic resonance.

“Metabolomics can give us an additional tool to further understand an individual’s particular health issues and potential solutions in a more individualized way,” Dr. Jason Ng, clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, PA, who was not involved in this study, told Medical News Today.

After comparing the spectral features generated from participants’ samples with the Human Metabolome Database, three spectra stood out as tightly corresponding to avocado intake.

As they shared a single metabolic annotation, CH2-lysyl, the authors of the study concluded they represented the same metabolite, and calculated a mean value across the three to arrive at their metabolic biomarker of avocado intake.

The researchers found that the biomarker was strongly associated with reduced fasting glucose and insulin regardless of various possible confounding factors, including BMI, health behaviors, smoking and alcohol intake, sociodemographic factors, and adiposity.

The authors hypothesized that this association would be stronger in people with dysglycemia, but found this not to be the case. They note that dysglycemia may be influenced by changes in the microbiome of a person with type 2 diabetes.

“The way we metabolize foods and the byproducts of food metabolism can help [shine] more light into how diets affect us and our cardiometabolic health,” said Michelle Routhenstein, cardiology dietitian and owner of Entirely Nourished, not involved in this research.

“It could also provide insight into chronic disease management, and potentially help manage blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels.” she added.

Routhenstein explained that “[a]vocados are rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as monounsaturated fatty acids that can help with keeping blood sugar levels at bay.”

She cited additional foods with similar properties:

“Other foods, such as edamame, flaxseeds, and chia seeds also contain soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, and monounsaturated fats that can help with blood sugar control.”

– Michelle Routhenstein

“We know certain foods tend to be healthier than others,“ Dr. Ng also said. “This study suggests, for example, that avocados may benefit sugar metabolism in the body.”

“It would be good to continue to study how these foods can affect an individual person so that they can understand what could, in particular, benefit them the most, since not all foods will benefit everyone equally,” he added.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 422 million people worldwide had diabetes in 2014, up from 108 million in 1980, a fourfold increase. Of these people, more than 95% have type 2 diabetes.

More recent data suggest that there are now more than half a billion people with diabetes worldwide, with the disease possibly affecting 1.3 billion people by 2050.

The Lancet refers to diabetes as “a defining disease of the 21st century.”

Although the incidence of diabetes is growing globally, regions especially impacted are North Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Diabetes, though typically manageable, can, if not managed, in the worst-case scenario result in kidney failure, vision loss, heart attack, and even lower limb amputation.

The risk of developing diabetes can be reduced with a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and not smoking. The current study investigates the value of avocado consumption as part of such a healthy diet.

Medication can help slow disease onset and progression.