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Compound Found in Avocados May Hold the Key to Managing Obesity

Avocados have seen increasing popularity in recent years because of their incredible nutritional value and many health benefits. Avocados contain monosaturated fats, which are often labeled as “good” because of their positive effect on cardiovascular’s health. They are also loaded with potassium and fiber, nutrients necessary for maintaining proper mental and metabolic function.

According to a new study published in the Molecular Nutrition and Food Research journal, avocados may also hold a key for managing obesity, a major factor for developing diabetes. 

A research team from the University of Guelph lead by Prof. Paul Spagnuolo investigated how a specific compound found in avocados can help tackle certain cell processes that accelerate the development of diabetes. 

Obesity is one of the leading causes of developing diabetes type 2. And previous studies have shown that 1 in 4 Canadians is obese, while many more are overweight. So researchers have been looking at various compounds that could help reverse this and fight obesity.

One of the biggest problems in diabetes is insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels, and in diabetes, cells can become unable to utilize insulin, and thus glucose stays in the bloodstream. That can result in many adverse health outcomes.

The researchers wanted to investigate how avocatin B (AvoB) affected certain cell processes typical in diabetes. For instance, fatty acid oxidation normally happens in our mitochondria, and it’s how our bodies burn fat. But in obese people, this process is incomplete. AvoB inhibits the incomplete fatty acid oxidation, regulating glucose and lipid metabolism.

In this study performed on mice, researchers fed them high-fat diets for eight weeks to induce obesity and insulin resistance. Afterward, they split mice into two groups:

  • The first group continued a high-fat diet.
  • The second group had the same diet with the addition of AvoB supplements two times a week.

After five weeks, the results showed that mice from the second group displayed better insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and utilization. Mice from this group also weighed significantly less than those in the first group, showing that AvoB could efficiently slow weight gain. 

In a randomized, double-blinded clinical study in humans, participants used AvoB as a dietary supplement to their standard diet. AvoB was successfully absorbed into the bloodstream without damaging any part of the body.

Although researchers spotted some weight loss in participants, they pointed out that results were not statistically significant. But, more importantly, they have demonstrated that AvoB is safe for human use.

Spagnuolo said that this trial helped them figure out how much AvoB to include in supplements. When talking about the next steps, the team plans to test AvoB’s potential in treating metabolic conditions in humans.

They have received approval from Health Canada to produce AvoB supplements in powder and pill form through Ontario-based health product company SP Nutraceuticals Inc. AvoB supplements were supposed to hit the market this year, but we will have to wait and see if it will be postponed due to pandemic.

Levels of natural AvoB in avocados can vary, so researchers are still unsure whether consuming the fruit would have the same effect. One thing is sure, adding avocados to your diet will have many benefits. The team highlights that exercise and eating healthy have no substitute and should be everyone’s priority.

“We advocate healthy eating and exercise as solutions to the problem, but that’s difficult for some people. We’ve known this for decades, and obesity and diabetes are still a significant health problem,” said Nawaz Ahmed, the lead author of the study.

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