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Health benefits of avocado oil

Health benefits of avocado oil

AUCKLAND – Six years after the successful commercial release of avocado oil, scientists are still eager to learn more about the health benefits and find ways to maximise them.

New Zealand was the first country to commercialise the oil and, although it quickly found favour with consumers and is used in many top restaurants, there has been no analysis of what has been hailed as a wonder oil.

The University’s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health played a key role in developing the extraction process that led to the commercialisation of avocado oil as a fully-edible, culinary oil from cold-pressed extraction.

Institute researcher Dr Marie Wong has been working with HortResearch for five years on the study of the health components of avocado oil, research funded by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology. The study includes measuring the proportions of the health giving components in the oil and the post- harvest factors that have a bearing on those components, such as storage and handling.

“Although there are studies on the avocado itself, there is virtually no published information world-wide on avocado oil and this is the first study of the health components of New Zealand-grown avocados,” Dr Wong says.

Health trials looking at the benefits of the high carotenoid levels as protective antioxidants are likely to be among the next steps. A carotenoid is a plant pigment that produces the yellow colour in the oil, Dr Wong says. “It is known that the carotenoid lutein, for example, reduces ageing of the eyes and helps produce good eye health.”

There are a number of compounds in avocado oil that place it high among the so-called “good oils” in terms of human benefits. Oils from fruits such as avocado are comprised of healthier fatty acids than those found in other edible fats from animals. Two thirds of the fat in avocados are “good” fats, mono and polyunsaturated.

In addition the oil is high in the powerful antioxidant vitamin E, and the plant sterols that are known to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels.

The trials have studied the composition of the oil in relation to different conditions including storage, handling and the regions and growers they have come from.

Although the Hass avocado is the predominant fruit used for production, other cultivars have been studied too. Variations in composition have been found, Dr Wong says. The study is also considering how the health-benefiting components and their quality can be maximised during extraction.

“It could be that we will be able to come up with recommendations on what varieties to grow where. Ultimately we may find out how to produce the healthiest blend of avocado from which to extract oil with the optimum components for health benefits.”

ends

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