At ZOE, we’re unashamed avocado advocates. They’re rich in good fats, fiber, polyphenols, and other helpful compounds. There’s no denying that avocados are a welcome addition to a diverse, plant-based diet.
But what about avocado oil? Recently, it’s been touted as a particularly healthy oil, but does the evidence back this up?
With a quick Google search, you can find a wide range of health claims about avocado oil.
So, in this article, we’ll look at some of the most common claims and see whether research supports them.
In particular, we’ll ask whether avocado oil has health benefits compared with other (much cheaper) oils.
Reducing blood fats
But is there any evidence? Very little relevant research in humans exists. One small study is sometimes cited in support of this theory, so we'll describe it here.
Human breakfast study
For their study, the researchers gave participants a high-fat, high-calorie breakfast consisting of butter, eggs, bacon, wheat bread, potatoes, and iced sugar. Yes, iced sugar for breakfast.
They gave another group of participants the same breakfast but with one important change: They switched butter for avocado oil.
Participants who got the avocado oil had lower levels of total cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol in their blood. They also had lower levels of triglycerides, blood sugar, and one marker of inflammation.
So, that sounds good. The authors suggested that avocado oil might help protect against the negative impact of a high-fat, high-energy breakfast.
But perhaps removing butter from the breakfast was just as important as adding avocado oil.
And, as Dr. Sarah Berry, ZOE’s chief scientist, told us, “Olive oil or canola oil would probably do the same job.”
What about animal studies?
One study found that avocado oil reduces levels of circulating triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol in rats.
However, these scientists also compared avocado oil with olive oil and found that the effects in rats were “similar.”
It’s certainly worth pursuing this line of investigation. But as it stands, there’s not enough evidence to suggest that avocado oil helps reduce levels of fat in your blood any more than other oils rich in monounsaturated fats.
So, avocado oil might also support eye health.
However, whole avocados also contain lutein, as do more cost-effective plants, like broccoli, kale, spinach, and zucchini.
In fact, 50 g of cooked spinach can provide 100% of your recommended daily intake of lutein.
So, avocado oil might support eye health. But it's no better than other, more accessible foods.
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Reduces arthritis symptoms
Supplements of this mixture are available over the counter. They're called avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU).
However, producing ASU from avocados is a complex chemical process, and the end product is very different from avocado oil.
Currently, there’s no evidence that standard avocado oil consumed in dietary amounts reduces symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Improve blood pressure
There’s no evidence from human trials that avocado oil can reduce blood pressure.
However, some studies in rodents show that it can reduce blood pressure to a similar degree as a common blood pressure drug.
And though we are not rats, there's a good chance that this oil could reduce blood pressure in humans. Oleic acid is the main fatty acid in avocado oil. And some research suggests that this fatty acid can help reduce blood pressure.
Keep in mind that oleic acid is also the main fatty acid in olive and canola oils, so if it does reduce hypertension, these oils may do the job just as well, for a much lower price.
And there’s already some evidence that adding olive oil to your diet might reduce hypertension.
High smoke point
All cooking oils have a smoke point, the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke.
Once it reaches this temperature, some of the health-benefiting compounds can break down, and the taste changes.
Once an oil reaches its smoke point, it can generate some chemicals that may be linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
But as Sarah explains in the ZOE Science & Nutrition podcast on cooking oils, most evidence of the ”dangerous effects of cooked oils is actually from animal studies [...] and home cooking would rarely generate temperatures high enough to create harmful chemicals.”
She adds that unless you’re using oil over and over again, you’re unlikely to generate those potentially harmful chemicals. And that’s not how most people cook at home these days.
If you’re concerned, other common refined oils, like canola and sunflower oils, have higher smoke points than olive oil.
The takehome message
As with so many things in nutrition, rather than ask, “Is X healthy?” try to ask, “Is X healthier than the thing I might replace?”
If you’re thinking of replacing olive oil with avocado oil, it’s unlikely to make any difference.
Overall, avocado oil is a healthy addition to a diverse diet. It’s likely to have more health benefits than butter. But it’s probably not any healthier than olive oil. And it’s a lot more expensive.
Sarah told us:
"If you have the money, feel free to try avocado oil. Otherwise, based on the current evidence, I would opt for a much cheaper option, such as extra virgin olive oil for dressings — or olive oil, canola oil, or high-oleic sunflower oil for cooking."
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