This week’s academic paper got a lot of media coverage world-wide. CNN declared “Eating 2 servings a week of 1 fatty fruit can reduce heart attack risk, study says” (Ref 1). The UK Times newspaper headline was “An avocado a week can cut heart disease risk by a fifth” (Ref 2). Australians were told “A new study says eating two or more servings of avocado every week cuts the risk of heart disease by a fifth” (Ref 3).
If ever there were a food that was so obviously subject to the healthy person confounder, the avocado is that food. Picture the person who eats avocados and what kind of image do you have in your head? Affluent and healthy? Or broke and ‘down and out’? Waitrose (an upmarket UK grocery store) is currently selling one small avocado for £1.20 and a large avocado for £1.80. McDonalds are currently selling a double cheeseburger for £1.59.
Avocados are plant foods, which we’re told to eat ‘to save the planet.’ Yet the UK, for example, imports avocados from Peru, South Africa, Chile, Israel and Spain (in that order) accounting for 84% of the avocados brought into the UK over the last 5 years (analysis carried out using data from HM Revenue and Customs) (Ref 4). That’s a lot of travel miles with the ostensible goal of saving the planet.
The background to this study was given as “Epidemiologic studies on the relationship between avocado intake and long-term cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk are lacking.” Hence, the authors took it upon themselves to fill this gap.