Eating one avocado per day has surprising impact on attention

An avocado a day may help keep the dementia away, at least in older adults suffering from obesity. The findings come from the University of Illinois where researchers looked into the effects of avocados on cognitive function in obese adults. The study involved feeding participants one avocado every day for 12 weeks.

Avocados, the high-fat and somewhat pricey fruit most associated with millennials, is popular as a butter alternative among some and as a base for certain recipes by others. The fruit is green with textured skin, easily-mashed flesh, and a large seed in the middle. Avocados are also high in lutein, a carotenoid found in a variety of plants, including carrots and spinach.

Avocados have a particularly high level of lutein, which has spurred a number of studies on their potential effect on cognition. The new study out of Illinois looks specifically at the effect in adults who are obese, a health condition that is associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline as one ages.

As part of the research, a total of 84 obese or overweight adults were given daily identical meals, the only exception being avocado — some participants were fed one avocado per day whereas the others did not receive avocado. Cognitive tests were used at the beginning and end of the study to determine whether the avocado had any cognitive impact.

The results were favorable. The researchers found that participants fed one avocado per day experienced improvements on the Flanker test, which looks at one's ability to focus on a task. The researchers say that while these participants had higher lutein levels, they weren't associated with the cognitive changes.

Additional research is needed to determine what caused the beneficial effect, but the researchers said it may be due to the monosaturated fats, high amounts of fiber, or beneficial changes in the participant's gut bacteria.