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Researchers find that older adults who are regular avocado consumers have better cognitive abilities

Want to preserve your memory as you age? Reach for an avocado.

image of avocados sliced in half
Older U.S. adults who ate avocado scored higher on three different types of tests measuring cognition, even after other variables were factored out.

study published today in Frontiers in Nutrition showed that regular consumption of avocados is linked to better cognition.

Researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center and the Hass National Avocado Board examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and performed a cross-sectional study of participants aged 60 or older. Those who reported consuming avocado in the 24 hours prior to the dietary survey scored higher on three different types of tests measuring cognition, even after other variables were factored out.

While additional studies are needed to confirm the precise benefits and tease out why avocados may have such a positive effect on memory, the take-away is simple: incorporate avocados into your diet if you want to preserve your memory as you age.

“One of my key research agendas is to understand how we can prevent neurodegenerative diseases and preserve cognition as we age,” said Matthew Taylor, Ph.D., RD, assistant professor in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition in the School of Health Professions at KU Medical Center.

“The NHANES study had collected cognition data in older adults, and they also had really good diet data,” Taylor said. “So it was a good data set to investigate this relationship. If you look at avocados, they are very nutrient-dense and have some unique properties, including carotenoids, that are thought to be beneficial to cognition. We hypothesized that there may be a connection, and we found there was.”

The study showed that, even once other variables such as education, age, physical activity and smoking were accounted for, the avocado and its positive impact on cognition remained. Taylor says avocados are nutritionally similar to other foods known to aid cognition. “As we look at our how our diet affects cognition, we are finding diet patterns that benefit brain aging, like the Mediterranean diet with its emphasis on olive oil and fatty fish.”

Taylor notes the avocado is loaded with B vitamins, supports healthy metabolism and can help reduce inflammation. And while it’s calorically dense, it’s worth making room for those calories in your diet.

“Avocados in general have a vast amount of nutrition in one package,” he said. “There also may be some synergistic elements of these nutrients working together.”

Taylor encourages continued study, noting that understanding how to improve cognition and reduce the effects of aging on the brain will continue to be important as the U.S. population grows older. “We really need participants in all types of clinical trials,” he said. “Understanding how all of these pieces work together continues to be a puzzle.”

This research was supported by the Hass Avocado Board and the National Institutes of Health.

Read the study in Frontiers in Nutrition

Learn more about clinical trials at KU Medical Center

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