The Hass Avocado Board bet its fortunes on the nutritional benefits of the fruit.
Research findings that continue to roll in appear to indicate it was a winning wager.
The latest findings came out of Ohio State University this summer. The Hass Avocado Board reported July 10 that researchers at OSU said consuming a whole fresh avocado with either an orange-colored tomato sauce or raw carrots significantly enhanced provitamin A carotenoid (alpha- and beta-carotene) absorption and conversion of these carotenoids to an active form of vitamin A.
Vitamin A is involved in reproductive health and growth promotion; helps support healthy skin, immune function and vision; and has antioxidant properties, researchers noted. Provitamin A carotenoids, like alpha- and beta-carotene, impart the orange and yellow colors to many fruits and vegetables. The body converts these plant pigments into an active and usable form of vitamin A.
The research, “Avocado consumption enhances human post-prandial absorption and conversion from a novel high beta-carotene tomato sauce and from carrots,” which HAB funded, investigated if avocados could help the body better use and absorb vitamin A from carotene-rich foods when eaten together.
The basis of the research was two “randomized, two-way crossover feeding studies in 12 healthy men and women.” The first study investigated if fresh avocado, when eaten with high beta-carotene tomato sauce, would promote the absorption of provitamin A carotenoids and the conversion of these carotenoids to an active form of vitamin A. The second looked into the same outcome, but replaced high beta-carotene tomato sauce with raw carrots.
For the first study, researchers found that compared to a tomato-sauce meal without avocado, the addition of one avocado (150 g) more than doubled (2.4 times) beta-carotene absorption, and more than quadrupled (4.6 times) the conversion of provitamin A (inactive vitamin form) to vitamin A (active vitamin form).
Similarly, researchers found in the second study that compared to a raw carrot meal without avocado, the addition of one avocado (150 g) significantly increased beta-carotene absorption (6.6 times), more than quadrupled (4.8 times) alpha-carotene absorption and significantly increased (12.6 times) the conversion of provitamin A (inactive vitamin form) to vitamin A (active vitamin form).
“The results of this study strengthen the current body of research on this topic and complement a previous study conducted in my lab that showed a similar enhancement in carotenoid absorption with one-half of an avocado,” Steven Schwartz, an OSU researcher, said in a news release.
In 2010, HAB established a Nutrition Research program to increase awareness and improve understanding of the unique benefits of avocados to human health.
The new research further solidifies avocados’ bona fides, said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of Irvine, Calif.-based HAB, which was established in 2002 to represents hass avocado industries in all countries of origin that grow the fruit for U.S. consumption.
“We have a clear direction on nutrition,” Escobedo said.
HAB launched its “Love One Today” initiative as a spotlight on nutrition.
The new Ohio State study was the second that focused on avocados as a nutrient enhancer and took findings from the earlier research further, Escobedo said.
“Here in the U.S., I’d say it’s an opportunity because it kind of confirms that this is a healthy food and there’s something you want to add to salad, fruit and other dishes, wherever you have tomatoes, carrots and other fat-soluble nutrients, you’re really going to enhance absorption of those nutrients into the body,” he said.
Growers pay a 2.5-cent per-pound assessment to HAB, which keeps only 15% for its own programs; the rest is returned to hass marketing groups from individual countries of origin.
It’s a good investment, said David Fausset, salesman/category manager with Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce Inc.
“Being on the board myself, I have seen firsthand what all of their studies are doing, which continues to boost demand,” he said.
There’s some benefit outside the hass category, too, said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals Inc. in Homestead, Fla.
“Avocados have come a long way,” Ostlund said.
More information about studies on the nutritional value of avocados is available at avocadonutritioncenter.com.