Research on avocados, jogging, laser treatment

Medical Minutes

Holy guacamole! An avocado a day may keep the doctor away

It is believed that eating avocados may provide many important health benefits, and now you can add lowering your cholesterol levels to the list. A new study has found that individuals on a moderate-fat diet who ate an avocado every day had lower bad cholesterol (LDL ) levels than those on a similar diet without an avocado a day or on a lower-fat diet.

The study, which was just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, is important because it shows that eating one avocado a day as part of a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering moderate-fat diet can help improve bad cholesterol levels in overweight and obese individuals.

Researchers evaluated the effect avocados had on traditional and novel cardiovascular risk factors by replacing saturated fatty acids from an average American diet with unsaturated fatty acids from avocados. In this study, 45 healthy, overweight or obese patients between the ages of 21 and 70 were put on three different cholesterol-lowering diets.

“This was a controlled feeding study, but that is not the real world. So, it is a proof of concept investigation. We need to focus on getting people to eat a heart-healthy diet that includes avocados and other nutrient-rich food sources of better fats,” said senior study author Penny Kris-Atherton, Ph.D., who is chair of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee and Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, in University Park, Penn.

In this study, the volunteers consumed an average American diet (consisting of 34 percent of calories from fat, 51 percent carbohydrates, and 16 percent protein) for two weeks prior to starting one of the following cholesterol lowering diets: lower fat diet without avocado, moderate-fat diet without avocado, and moderate-fat diet with one avocado per day.

Compared to the baseline average American diet, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol, was 13.5 mg/dL lower after consuming the moderate fat diet that included an avocado. LDL was also lower on the moderate fat diet without the avocado (8.3 mg/dL lower) and the lower fat diet (7.4 mg/dL lower), though the results were not as striking as the avocado diet.

Several additional blood measurements were also more favorable after the avocado diet versus the other two cholesterol-lowering diets as well: total cholesterol, triglycerides, small dense LDL, non-HDL cholesterol and others.

Light jogging linked to longevity

Jogging may be best in small quantities according to a new study. The study, which tracked hours of jogging, frequency and the individual’s perception of pace, found that over the 12-year study strenuous joggers were as likely to die as sedentary non-joggers, while light joggers had the lowest rates of death.

Researchers looked at 5,048 healthy participants in the Copenhagen City Heart Study and questioned them about their activity. They identified and tracked 1,098 healthy joggers and 413 healthy but sedentary non-joggers for 12 years.

Jogging from 1 to 2.4 hours per week was associated with the lowest mortality and the optimal frequency of jogging was no more than three times per week. Overall, significantly lower mortality rates were found in those with a slow or moderate jogging pace, while the fast-paced joggers had almost the same mortality risk as the sedentary non-joggers.

“It is important to emphasize that the pace of the slow joggers corresponds to vigorous exercise and strenuous jogging corresponds to very vigorous exercise,” said study researcher Dr. Peter Schnohr, who is with Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark. “When performed for decades, this activity level could pose health risks, especially to the cardiovascular system.”

Laser treatment may help reverses aging effects on the eyes

During early stages, it might be possible to reverse age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness that is currently irreversible. A treatment involving a nanosecond laser may also have further implications for other eye diseases such as diabetic macular oedema, diabetic retinopathy and retinopathy of prematurity.

“It is hoped that this study will provide a basis for the clinical use of the low energy nanosecond laser in those with early stage age-related macular degeneration and that such a treatment will limit the progression of the disease to the advanced, sight-threatening forms,” said study investigator Dr. Erica Fletcher, who is with the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia.

Dr. Fletcher and colleagues treated a group of individuals with intermediate AMD in one eye with a single session of nanosecond laser treatment. These individuals underwent eye examinations every six months, out to two years post-treatment, and the results were compared to an untreated group with early AMD.

Results showed that treating those with early AMD with this new low energy nanosecond laser may limit disease progression. Importantly, unlike other lasers currently used to treat eye disease, the nanosecond laser does not result in damage to the sensitive retina. This study showed evidence that nanosecond laser treatment in one eye can also produce positive effects in the other untreated eye. This raises the possibility that monocular treatment may be sufficient to treat disease in both eyes.

John Schieszer is an award-winning international journalist and radio broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at

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John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.

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