Avocado oil is an edible oil made from the fruit of the avocado tree (Persea Americana). It can be used as cooking oil, an ingredient in various dishes, a lubricant, and cosmetics.
The avocado tree is native to Mexico and Central America, and the fruit has been grown for food for centuries. The oldest records mentioning avocados date back to around 10,000 BCE and were found in Coxcatlan in Mexico. Archaeologists believe that people began growing avocados for food by no later than 5000 BCE.
The first European to provide a written description of the avocado was a Spanish explorer named Martin Fernandez de Enciso, who described it in his book “Suma de Geografia,” published in 1519. As the Spanish colonized Latin America, they planted avocado trees throughout the area. In 1601, they brought avocado trees to Spain.
Avocados were introduced to the United States in the 19th century. At the time, the fruits were known as “alligator pears”, or by their Spanish name “ahuacate”. The word “avocado” had originally been a historical term, revived in the early 20th century.
Despite the extensive history of growing avocado for food, avocado oil is a relatively recent innovation, dating to the 20th century. The earliest known reference to avocado oil dates back to 1918 when the British Imperial Institute proposed extracting oil from the fruit’s pulp WHY.
Sixteen years later, the California State Chamber of Commerce recorded that some companies were extracting oil from avocados that were too badly blemished to be sold. At the time, extracting oil from an avocado was a labor-intensive and inefficient process that involved using a hydraulic press to crush the fruit and squeeze out the oil.
World War II had caused shortages of various cooking oils and fats, and the need for efficient substitutes arose. In 1942, Howard T. Love of the US Department of Agriculture suggested a more efficient method for extracting oil, proposing a type of solvent extraction. However, the resulting oil lost most of its nutrients, therefore needing significant fine-tuning to produce oil for commercial use.
The 1990s saw the development of cold-pressed avocado oil in New Zealand. The process was modeled on the same process used to make extra-virgin olive oil, and the resulting oil could be used as a salad dressing and cooking oil.
To cold-press avocado oil, one would start by removing the skin and stone (seed). After mashing the fruit into a pulp, they would crush and knead it to extract the oil while keeping the temperature under 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius). Then they would use a centrifuge to separate the oil from the solid pulp and water. Cold-pressing has the advantage of producing a highly pure, nutrient-rich oil without using chemicals or a lot of heat. Today, most avocado oil is now made through cold-pressing.
Avocado oil has a high smoke point, which is the temperature when heated oil starts to degrade. Thus, it can be used to cook things like sautés and stir-fries, for it will not break down like some other oils.
Avocado Oil Health Benefits
Avocado oil has become increasingly popular because of its versatility; it can be used as cooking oil, salad dressing, or as an ingredient. It is also nutritious and provides a variety of health benefits, including those listed below.
1. Avocado Oil Contains Many Nutrients
Avocado oil contains antioxidants like Vitamin E and lutein. Vitamin E helps protect the cardiovascular system, while lutein strengthens the eyes and reduces the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss in older people.
About 72 to 76 percent of the fatty acids in avocado oil are monounsaturated fats, while around 13 percent are saturated fats. The Mediterranean diet, often described as heart-healthy, encourages monounsaturated fats over saturated fats.
Thus, the Mediterranean diet encourages olive oil consumption, but avocado oil contains even more monounsaturated fats and fewer saturated fats compared to olive oil.
2. Avocado Oil Has Few Polyunsaturated Fats
According to the US Department of Agriculture, a tablespoon of avocado oil contains 124 calories, 1 milligram of sodium, and 14 grams of fat. It does not contain any protein or carbohydrates. Those 14 grams of fat are further subdivided into the following:
• Monounsaturated fat – 10 grams
• Polyunsaturated fat – 2 grams
• Saturated fat – 2 grams
Consequently, avocado oil has few omega-6 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids. While people do need some omega-6 in their diet, too much can cause inflammation and other health problems such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular disease.
Vegetable oils like corn oil or canola oil often contain high levels of omega-6 and thus carry a higher risk of causing inflammation and other health problems.
3. Avocado Oil Contains High Levels of Monounsaturated Fats
Like olive oil, avocado oil contains high levels of monounsaturated fats, which are considered healthy fats, compared to unhealthy saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats provide health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure, and reducing inflammation.
Dean Champion, a registered dietitian for the Wexner Medical Center of Ohio State University, noted that using avocado oil instead of butter in cooking could reduce blood sugar levels, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and overall cholesterol levels.
4. Avocado Oil Contains High Levels of Oleic Acid
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid that makes up about 70 percent of avocado oil and accounts for many known health benefits.
Oleic acid is the most common of the omega-9 fats, which are among the most common fats in the body. While they can be produced by the body, eating foods containing these fats can provide various benefits.
In 2015, for example, the science journal “Diabetes” described a study in which researchers fed mice a diet high in monounsaturated fats while giving other mice a diet high in saturated fats. They found that the mice that consumed the monounsaturated fat diet had less inflammation and lower insulin resistance than the mice on the saturated fat diet. The researchers showed the same results with human subjects.
Oleic acid can provide other benefits that include the following:
• Decrease the amount of stored fat around the abdomen
• Reduce cholesterol
• Strengthen the immune system
• Promote the growth of new nerve cells
• Reduce blood pressure
5. Avocado Oil and Soybean Oil May Help People with Arthritis
When combined with soybean oil, avocado oil may reduce osteoarthritis symptoms, the most common form of arthritis. Several studies, including a 2015 study published in the journal “Cartilage”, found that avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) can relieve osteoarthritis symptoms and even slow the progression of the disease.
An ASU is made from natural extracts of soybean and avocado oil at a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio, respectively. Researchers are not yet sure which component in the extracts of soybean and avocado oil is responsible for the relief of arthritis symptoms; however, they know that ASU decreases inflammation, slows the breakdown of cartilage, and promotes the repair of cartilage.
6. ASU May Prevent Gum Disease
Gum disease, also called periodontitis, is characterized by bleeding and red gums, halitosis, and the destruction of surrounding tissues. It can damage bone, and untreated, periodontitis can result in tooth loss.
In 2006, the “Journal of Periodontology” described a study in which researchers found that ASU could block the expression of a protein called IL-1b, contributing to gum disease by promoting inflammation and the destruction of tissues.
7. Avocado Oil Fights Free Radicals
Avocado oil contains high antioxidants that can effectively combat free radicals, which are unstable oxygen atoms with an incomplete outer shell. They latch onto other atoms to fill their shell with electrons. In doing so, they cause oxidative stress that damages cells and can eventually cause conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The “Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes” described a 2013 study in which researchers used avocado oil to treat type I diabetes in rats. They found that the antioxidants in the oil could enter the cells and reduce the number of free radicals produced by the mitochondria, thereby decreasing the damage done to the cells and protecting the mice from developing type I diabetes.
8. Avocado Oil Improves the Absorption of Nutrients
Some nutrients need to be accompanied by fat for the body to fully absorb them. Carotenoid antioxidants, which are found in many plants, are an example of such nutrients. Unfortunately, the fruits and vegetables that contain carotenoid antioxidants are typically too low in fat for the body to adequately absorb them.
One way to solve the problem is to add avocado oil to a salad to enhance the body’s ability to absorb the salad’s nutrients.
9. Avocado Oil Reduces Cancer Risk and can Slow Cancer Growth
Some of the nutrients in avocado oil can lower a person’s risk of developing cancer. Examples include omega-9 and antioxidants like glutathione that can decrease damage done to cells that can lead to cancer. Further, omega-3 fats have been shown to slow cancer cells’ growth, specifically colon and breast cancer.
10. Avocado Oil Can Help People with Fructose Malabsorption
Some people with irritable bowel syndrome also have a condition called “fructose malabsorption” that impairs their body’s ability to absorb and metabolize fructose. Thus, patients with the condition have to follow a special diet that restricts their consumption of sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and many fruits such as watermelon and pears. These patients have to carefully check bread, sauces, marinades, and cereals to make certain they don’t contain high-fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners.
People with fructose malabsorption, however, may consume many vegetables, most meat, and oils. Avocado oil is a source of healthy fats, such as omega-3, that can help heart health.
Detriments and Side Effects
1. Avocado Oil Can Cause Allergic Reactions
Some people are allergic to avocado oil. Such reactions are particularly common in people who also have latex allergies.
2. Avocado Oil Can Cause Weight Gain
Avocado oil is more calorie-dense than many other oils. Consequently, consuming too much of it can cause a person to gain weight.
3. Too Much Oleic Acid Can Cause Adverse Health Effects
Most adults need only the equivalent of one or two tablespoons a day to stay healthy.
Consuming too much of this monounsaturated fat can cause the body to store too much fat in the liver and cause fatty liver disease. It can also cause adverse interactions with certain medications, including those for blood pressure or diabetes.
While omega-9 fatty acids can benefit the heart, consuming too much can instead damage the heart. In 2017, the “Journal of Clinical Lipidology” described a study in which researchers conducting a ten-year-long study found that a diet containing excessive amounts of omega-9 fats increased the risk of heart failure. These studies demonstrate the importance of incorporating the correct amount of oleic acid in the diet.
Summary and Review
Avocado oil is surprisingly new and contains many nutritional and health benefits. While avocado oil contains little protein or carbohydrates, it provides many healthy fats like omega-3 and omega-9, and omega-6, which can be beneficial if eaten in moderation.
Monounsaturated fats are among the healthy fats found in avocado oil and provide many benefits that include strengthening the immune system, reducing cholesterol, and lowering blood pressure.
Avocado oil is also an excellent source of antioxidants that can combat the free radicals that impair health and accelerate aging.
Extracts called avocado/soybean oil unsaponifiables or ASUs can protect people from both periodontal disease and osteoarthritis.
Avocado oil also has the advantage of versatility, for it can be used in many types of dishes. It can be used as a salad dressing alone or used as an ingredient in a salad dressing. Avocado oil can also be used to cook dishes like stir-fries that require high heat, as it has a high smoke-point,
As with almost any other food, excess use of avocado oil can contribute to fatty liver disease and other adverse health effects. The average adult should ingest the equivalent of one or two tablespoons a day.
Avocado oil is an excellent supplement to add to an adult diet to support a healthy lifestyle, but like all things, it must be taken in moderation.