Diabetes and Avocado



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The Claim

For people with type 2 diabetes, foods high in monounsaturated fats (such as avocado) improve glucose tolerance and reduce insulin resistance.

The Overview

Avocados are one of the top food sources for monounsaturated fats, which are recommended for diabetes sufferers. By eating a high quantity of these fats, the body’s glucose tolerance improves and the body’s insulin resistance may be reduced.

The Evidence

In general, guidelines[1-4] and reliable patient information[5-8,14] state that the healthy diet recommended for all adults including people with type 2 diabetes should be low in fat, particularly saturated fat (e.g. in dairy produce). Risk of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance is strongly linked with being overweight, which can be related to eating a high fat diet.

Another link with dietary fat is that people with type 2 diabetes have a high risk of cardiovascular disease, therefore levels of blood cholesterol should be kept within healthy limits. Both NICE and SIGN guidelines recommend lowering consumption of saturated fats to reduce cardiovascular diseases, including those caused by high cholesterol.[17,18]

Avocados are an example of a food which is relatively high in monounsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are considered preferable to saturated fats, but should still be consumed in moderation to maintain a healthy weight. There is little evidence specifically on the benefits of eating large quantities of avocado to improve blood glucose control. Two small trials of diets containing avocado were found which seemed to show benefits where avocado was substituted for normal levels of other fats.[19,20]

The Conclusion

The evidence suggests that avocados can be effective in helping improve diabetes symptoms, but only as a different source of fat (not in addition to normal fat consumption). There is little evidence that eating large quantities of avocadoes would independently help improve blood glucose control, and they can lead to weight gain if consumed in high quantities.

Research evidence sources

1 Franz MJ, Bantle JP, Beebe CA, Brunzell JD, Chiasson J-L, Garg A, et al. Evidence-Based Nutrition Principles and Recommendations for the Treatment and Prevention of Diabetes and Related Complications. Diabetes care. 2002;25(1):148-98.

2 Guideline synthesis: Nutritional management of diabetes mellitus. Rockville (MD): National Guideline Clearinghouse; 2009 [cited 2011 October 12]. Available here

3NICE. Type 2 diabetes : The management of type 2 diabetes. CG87. London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2009. Available here

4SIGN. Management of diabetes: a national clinical guideline. 116. Edinburgh: Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network; 2010. Available here

5 Diabetes UK. Eating well with Type 2 Diabetes. London: Diabetes UK; 2010. Available here

6 Living with type 2 diabetes. NHS Choices; 2010 [cited 2011 October 12]. Available here

7 Food and diet. NHS Choices; 2011 [cited 2011 Oct 12]. Available here

8 Diabetes – meal planning. Coralville (IA): Patient Education Institute, Inc.; 2008 [cited 2011 Oct 12]. Available here

9 Murakami K, Okubo H, Sasaki S. Effect of dietary factors on incidence of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review of cohort studies. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol.(Tokyo). 2005;51(4):292-310.

10 Priebe M, van BJ, de VR, Vonk RJ. Whole grain foods for the prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2008;(1).

11 Venn BJ, Mann JI. Cereal grains, legumes and diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004;58(11):1443-61.

12 Wolfram T, Ismail-Beigi F. Efficacy of high-fiber diets in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Endocr.Pract. 2011;17(1):132-42.

13NICE. NICE Guideline PHG35 Preventing type 2 diabetes: population and community-level interventions in high-risk groups and the general population. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2011. Available here

14 Diabetes diet – Type 2. Bethesda (MD): U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2011 [cited 2011 Oct 12]. Available here

15 Carter P, Gray LJ, Troughton J, Khunti K, Davies MJ. Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2010;341:c4229.

16 The Glycaemic index London: Diabetes UK; 2011 [cited 2011 Oct 17]. Available here

17NICE. Prevention of cardiovascular disease at population level. PH25. London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2011. Available here

18SIGN. Risk estimation and the prevention of cardiovascular disease. 97. Edinburgh: Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network; 2007. Available here

19 Lerman G, I, Ichazo CS, Zamora GJ, Cardoso SG, Posadas RC. Effect of a high-monounsaturated fat diet enriched with avocado in NIDDM patients. Diabetes care. 1994;17:311-5.

20 Madrigal JC, Munoz MA, Herrera-Abarca JE, Carbajal FC. [Avocado as source of monounsaturated fatty acid: Its effects in serum lipids, glucose metabolism and rheology in patients with type 2 diabetes]. Medicina Interna de Mexico. 2008;24:267-72.

21ESC, EASD. Guidelines on diabetes, pre-diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases: full text. Sophia Antipolis: European Society of Cardiology; 2007.
Available here

22 Psaltopoulou T, Ilias I, Alevizaki M. The role of diet and lifestyle in primary, secondary, and tertiary diabetes prevention: a review of meta-analyses. Rev Diabet.Stud. 2010;7(1):26-35.