Choose Avocados to Help Reduce Risk for Obesity and Diabetes
- Avocados may help with weight management and blood sugar control, reducing your risk of obesity and diabetes. Avocados help you feel full longer, are packed with fiber and are high in amounts of several essential vitamins and minerals, including the B vitamins, potassium and vitamin K
- Researchers have discovered a unique fat molecule in avocados, avocatin B (AvoB), which demonstrates a positive effect on reducing insulin resistance by assisting the body in the complete oxidation of fatty acids in mitochondria. Results were positive in an animal study and human subjects
- Factors affecting your risk of diabetes include obesity, high blood pressure, lack of physical activity, depression and a history of heart disease or stroke. Additionally, low levels of vitamin D and magnesium are associated with a higher risk of diabetes
- The practice of intermittent fasting, during which you restrict calories for several hours or days, has a positive effect on metabolic flexibility, reducing your risk of diabetes. Consider one of several ways to incorporate this practice in your routine
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat your body burns easily for energy. They may be one of the healthiest foods you can eat every day as they help protect your heart and optimize your cholesterol. They also are rich in fiber.
Together with high amounts of several essential vitamins and minerals, including the B vitamins, potassium and vitamin K, the avocado is a fruit you may want to consider for more than guacamole. Adding avocados to salad also helps your body to absorb three to five times more carotenoids, helping your body fight against free radical damage.
An average sized avocado also contains about 10% of the recommended daily value of magnesium, a mineral used by every organ in your body. Insufficient levels may lead to unexplained muscle fatigue or weakness, abnormal heart rhythms or muscle spasms.
Avocados are also surprisingly high in fiber, which plays an important role in digestive, heart and skin health. Fiber is also important in helping to regulate blood sugar and weight management. One study found eating one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch may help you feel full longer and prevent snacking later.
Avocados don’t ripen on the tree, but only after they’re picked. Choose firm avocados, as they will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, ripening slowly. On your counter, they will ripen within a few days. After you cut it, an avocado will turn brown from oxidation.
If you don’t eat it all, you can keep it fresh longer by leaving the pit with the avocado and storing in an airtight container. Brush lemon juice and olive oil over the cut flesh to help inhibit oxidation. Be aware, though, that the oil can add oiliness to the texture, while the juice will give it a slight lemon flavor.
Avocados at Breakfast May Reduce Hunger Through the Day
Being overweight increases the risk of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, and it’s possible that eating avocados may help address these conditions. When it comes to weight management, some ethnic groups may be more prone to developing both prediabetes and Type 1 diabetes, for example, Hispanic/Latino Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1
Although this is “a diverse group that includes people of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican and South and Central American,” they all have a higher potential risk of developing diabetes than nonHispanic whites, the CDC says. The increased risk may come from general risk factors including genetics, foods you eat, your weight and your activity levels.
To gain insight into how to affect change, one survey of Hispanic millennials showed that they would be interested in learning about lifestyle changes they could make that could reduce their risk for diabetes without medication.2 The investigation was spearheaded by the Hass Avocado Board, which runs Saborea Uno Hoy, a self-described research program3 that promotes avocados for their health benefits.
A clinical study published in Nutrients4 sought to evaluate how well avocados could satisfy hunger and replace carbohydrates in a meal. Using 31 overweight or obese adults, the researchers used a visual analog scale that matched against serum levels of ghrelin, a hormone associated with appetite, to measure how full the participants felt after consuming one of three different meals.
There was greater suppression of hunger after the participants consumed a whole avocado as compared to the control meal high in carbohydrates and low in fat. They also felt more satisfied after a meal with a half or whole avocado as compared to the control meal.
The researchers wrote, “Replacing carbohydrates in a high-carbohydrate meal with avocado-derived fat-fiber combination increased feelings of satiety …” Although the study size was small, the findings support a growing body of research that eating healthy fats, including those found in avocados, has a positive impact on weight management and glucose control.
A Fat Found Only in Avocado Associated With Glycemic Control
Another intriguing study found that avocados have yet another impact on glucose control and the management of diabetes.5 Researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, discovered a fat molecule found only in avocados, avocatin B (AvoB), has a positive effect on reducing insulin resistance.6
The researchers wrote a diabetic’s inability to properly utilize blood glucose is associated with mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation. When the body completely oxidizes fatty acid, the body can use fat for fuel. However, obesity and diabetes inhibit the body’s ability to completely oxidize fatty acids.
AvoB counters this incomplete oxidation in the pancreas and skeletal muscles, improving insulin sensitivity. As detailed by Science Daily, scientists fed mice fed high-calorie meals for eight weeks to induce obesity and insulin resistance. Then, in the following five weeks, they added AvoB to the diet of half the group.
At the end of the study the treated animals weighed less than those in the control group, demonstrating slower weight gain during the intervention, and exhibiting improved insulin sensitivity. The researchers also engaged human subjects and found AvoB supplement was absorbed safely without affecting kidney or liver function.
The human subjects also enjoyed weight reduction while eating a typical Western diet. The beneficial effects of consuming monounsaturated fats from avocados shown in recent studies support past research7 comparing a diet rich in complex carbohydrates against one rich in oleic acid from avocado and olive oil.
Data revealed replacing complex digestible carbohydrates with monounsaturated fatty acids in those with noninsulin-dependent diabetes improved the participants lipid profile while maintaining glycemic control.
Certain Lifestyle Choices May Increase Risk of Diabetes
In 2015, 9.4% of the U.S. population had been diagnosed with diabetes.8 This is slightly higher than the 8.5% of global prevalence among adults over 18 years of age recorded by the World Health Organization9 in 2014.
Your potential risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is dependent on your lifestyle choices and genetics. While you can’t change your genes, there are certain risk factors over which you have control that can affect your chances of getting diabetes, including:10
|Being overweight or obese||Having high blood pressure||Dealing with depression|
|Having an imbalance in your cholesterol levels||Having a history of heart disease or stroke||Being physically inactive|
In addition to these risk factors, low levels of vitamin D also affect your risk for developing metabolic syndrome, characterized by high triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, large waist circumference, high blood pressure and high blood sugar and/or insulin resistance.
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone responsible for influencing virtually every cell in your body. Studies have found those who have lower levels of vitamin D have a greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Low levels of magnesium also contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
One review found magnesium deficiency may be the greatest predictor of heart disease, and that even subclinical deficiency may compromise your cardiovascular health. Studies have found those who have Type 2 diabetes are more prone to magnesium deficiency; depletion has been found in 75% with poorly controlled disease.
In addition, magnesium plays an important role in the regulation of high blood pressure, another risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Studies have also demonstrated supplementation may lower your risk and improve your condition if you currently have diabetes.
You can boost your magnesium by eating foods rich in magnesium, using Epsom salt baths or taking an oral supplement. My personal preference is magnesium threonate, since it appears to be efficient at penetrating cell membranes, including the mitochondria and blood-brain barrier.
Intermittent Fasting Helps You Achieve Metabolic Flexibility
When your body is resistant to insulin it lowers the cells’ ability to use glucose for energy. In response, the pancreas secretes more insulin to overcome the cells’ weak response and maintain blood glucose in a healthy range. Additionally, animal studies have demonstrated that repeated fasting may induce pancreatic beta cell growth accompanied by a marked improvement in blood sugar control.
In one animal study, researchers found pancreatic fat plays a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes, but intermittent fasting helps prevent these fatty deposits. The team found mice undergoing intermittent fasting every other day exhibited better glucose control and less fat in the liver and pancreas than the control group that was allowed unlimited food.
Intermittent fasting encourages your body to burn fat for fuel. By not relying exclusively on carbohydrates, it reduces insulin resistance that can develop in tissues and organs. Your skeletal muscle burns 60% to 80% of glucose thought to be related to the interaction of skeletal muscle and insulin resistance in those with Type 2 diabetes.
An overall metabolic inflexibility may be overridden by fasting and improving mitochondrial capacity. In other words, the ability to use both fat and carbohydrates for fuel is necessary to reduce insulin resistance, maintain weight and achieve optimal health.
What Is Intermittent Fasting and How Do You Practice It?
There are several ways to integrate intermittent fasting. The idea is to forgo food for a specific amount of time. The method you choose will vary by the number of days, hours and calories you allow.
There is no one plan that works for everyone, so it’s likely you’ll find a way to fit it into your lifestyle preferences to improve your metabolic flexibility. I recommend starting with a 12-hour fast from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. Once you have achieved this for a week, try adding one hour every week for a month. This will help you easily move from a 12-hour daily fast to a 16-hour daily fast.
Before starting, remember intermittent fasting is not necessarily a form of calorie restriction but, rather, eliminating food sources to improve metabolic flexibility. Sugar and hunger cravings will disappear as your body begins burning fat, so the quality of your diet does play an important role in your health.
Reduce or eliminate as much processed food as possible and practice fasting under your physician’s care if you have an underlying medical condition. Here are several different ways of incorporating intermittent fasting into your daily routine:
- 12-hours-a-day fast — This is often used as a jumping-off point as described above.
- 16-hours-a-day fast — This is sometimes referred to as the 16/8 method and is a graduation from the 12-hour fast. Many people choose to finish eating by 7 p.m. and do not eat again until noon.
- Two days a week — For some it may be easier to restrict food for 24 hours twice weekly as opposed to each day. Men may eat up to 600 calories on the fasting days and women up to 500 calories. To use this type of intermittent fasting successfully, there should be at least one nonfasting day between your fasting days.
- Every other day — There are several variations of an every-other-day plan. Some completely avoid solid food and others allow up to 500 calories on fasting days. The authors of one study found this type of intermittent fasting was effective for weight loss and heart health for both normal and overweight adults.
- Meal skipping — This is a more flexible approach that works well for those who respond to hunger signals and normally eat when they’re hungry and skip meals when they’re not.
- 1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Diabetes, Hispanic/Latino Americans and Type 2 Diabetes, Para 1,2; Higher Risk
- 2 PRNewswire, November 4, 2019 Para 1
- 3 Saborea Uno Hoy, Copyright at the bottom
- 4 Nutrients, 2019;11(5):952 Abstract
- 5 Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, October 14, 2019; doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201900688
- 6 Science Daily, October 30, 2019 Throughout the article
- 7 Diabetes Care, 1994;17(4):311 Abstract
- 8 American Diabetes Association, Statistics About Diabetes, Overall Numbers
- 9 World Health Organization, Diabetes, October 30, 2018 Key Facts
- 10 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes