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Avocado's Cancer Fighting Fat

By Casey Thaler, B.A., NASM-CPT, FNS
June 24, 2015
Avocado's Cancer Fighting Fat image

If you’re eating avocados on a regular basis, you’re definitely on-trend, but you may not be fully aware of their nutritional benefits and contents. Recently, brand new research revealed that molecules derived from avocados could be effective in treating a specific form of Leukemia.1 Researchers filed a patent application for the use of avocation B, a compound found in avocados, to develop a lipid drug that combats acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Fighting occurs via specific targeting of the root of the disease - leukemia stem cells. With the existing body of scientific literature linking fruit consumption (yes, the avocado is a fruit) and cancer, we must take an unbiased look at the salient research.2,3,4,5 Even back in 2005, researchers found the avocado is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids, but also noted its bioactive substances were overlooked.6 This included carotenoids, which may help with cancer prevention.7,8,9

In 2009, researchers noted phytochemicals extracted from avocado into a chloroform partition selectively induced apoptosis in cancer cells.10 These experiments are conducted using extracts and are in much higher amounts than you would get from just eating avocados regularly. But, would it be a good idea to consume avocados regularly as a potential preventative measure against cancer?

I would argue yes since avocados have a plethora of other benefits as well.11,12,13 They are a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids. They also contain nearly 50% of your daily dose of pantothenic acid, among other nutrients.14,15 As many who follow a Paleo diet know, the intake of fat along with carotenoids greatly improves their absorption.16,17 When consuming a salad, for example, without a fat content present, absorption is hindered. So, employ a simple, inexpensive, and delicious fix by adding it to your vegetable medley!

Cancer is something we all fear, and it can be debilitating in the extreme. But if you exercise regularly, sleep plenty, and eat a nutrient-rich Paleo diet – your cancer risk is lessened.18 While cancer research continues only to skim the surface, we do know increased vegetable consumption and healthy habits are associated with a decreased risk.19

Pile your plate high with vegetables, choosing options like kale and spinach, both known to have cancer combative properties. 20 Between leafy greens and cruciferous veggies, and healthy fats from avocados, these measures might be just the ticket to nip cancer in the bud.


[1] Lee EA, Angka L, Rota SG, et al. Targeting Mitochondria with Avocatin B Induces Selective Leukemia Cell Death. Cancer Res. 2015;75(12):2478-88.

[2] Vainio H, Weiderpass E. Fruit and vegetables in cancer prevention. Nutr Cancer. 2006;54(1):111-42.

[3] Block G, Patterson B, Subar A. Fruit, vegetables, and cancer prevention: a review of the epidemiological evidence. Nutr Cancer. 1992;18(1):1-29.

[4] Chan JM, Wang F, Holly EA. Vegetable and fruit intake and pancreatic cancer in a population-based case-control study in the San Francisco bay area. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005;14(9):2093-7.

[5] Benetou V, Orfanos P, Lagiou P, Trichopoulos D, Boffetta P, Trichopoulou A. Vegetables and fruits in relation to cancer risk: evidence from the Greek EPIC cohort study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008;17(2):387-92.

[6] Lu QY, Arteaga JR, Zhang Q, Huerta S, Go VL, Heber D. Inhibition of prostate cancer cell growth by an avocado extract: role of lipid-soluble bioactive substances. J Nutr Biochem. 2005;16(1):23-30.

[7] Wu K, Erdman JW, Schwartz SJ, et al. Plasma and dietary carotenoids, and the risk of prostate cancer: a nested case-control study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004;13(2):260-9.

[8] Gallicchio L, Boyd K, Matanoski G, et al. Carotenoids and the risk of developing lung cancer: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;88(2):372-83.

[9] Slattery ML, Benson J, Curtin K, Ma KN, Schaeffer D, Potter JD. Carotenoids and colon cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71(2):575-82.

[10] Ding H, Han C, Guo D, et al. Selective induction of apoptosis of human oral cancer cell lines by avocado extracts via a ROS-mediated mechanism. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(3):348-56.

[11] Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(7):738-50.

[12] Pieterse Z, Jerling JC, Oosthuizen W, et al. Substitution of high monounsaturated fatty acid avocado for mixed dietary fats during an energy-restricted diet: effects on weight loss, serum lipids, fibrinogen, and vascular function. Nutrition. 2005;21(1):67-75.

[13] Alvizouri-muñoz M, Carranza-madrigal J, Herrera-abarca JE, Chávez-carbajal F, Amezcua-gastelum JL. Effects of avocado as a source of monounsaturated fatty acids on plasma lipid levels. Arch Med Res. 1992;23(4):163-7.

[14] Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(7):738-50.

[15] Yang M, Moclair B, Hatcher V, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of a novel pantothenic Acid-based dietary supplement in subjects with mild to moderate facial acne. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2014;4(1):93-101.

[16] Ribaya-mercado JD. Influence of dietary fat on beta-carotene absorption and bioconversion into vitamin A. Nutr Rev. 2002;60(4):104-10.

[17] Widjaja-adhi MA, Lobo GP, Golczak M, Von lintig J. A genetic dissection of intestinal fat-soluble vitamin and carotenoid absorption. Hum Mol Genet. 2015;24(11):3206-19.

[18] Verhoeven DT, Goldbohm RA, Van poppel G, Verhagen H, Van den brandt PA. Epidemiological studies on brassica vegetables and cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1996;5(9):733-48.

[19] Murillo G, Mehta RG. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. Nutr Cancer. 2001;41(1-2):17-28.

[20] Maeda N, Matsubara K, Yoshida H, Mizushina Y. Anti-cancer effect of spinach glycoglycerolipids as angiogenesis inhibitors based on the selective inhibition of DNA polymerase activity. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2011;11(1):32-8.

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