MISSION VIEJO – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that fresh Hass avocados, as well as all other raw fruits and vegetables, now qualify for the “Dietary Saturated Fat and Cholesterol and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease” health claim. In other words, fresh Hass avocados can now be labeled heart-healthy, according to the federal regulations.
The interim final rule, effective immediately, qualifies all raw fruits and vegetables, including fresh Hass avocados, as heart-healthy, allowing fruits and vegetables that did not previously comply with the low fat definition and/or the minimum nutrient content requirement to make the claim.
This is in line with the FDA’s recent guidance to redefine the healthy nutrient content claim, which took into consideration the breakdown between good (unsaturated) and bad (saturated) fats in light of new evidence and dietary recommendations in the recently published 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), which qualified avocados to make that claim.
Aligning dietary guidance with current nutrition science, the ruling reinforces the large body of science suggesting fruits and vegetables support heart health, including a study that was recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association that investigated the potential beneficial effects of eating fresh avocados on risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The study demonstrated that participants (overweight but otherwise healthy adults) who incorporated one fresh Hass avocado into the diet daily for five weeks reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol levels more than a moderate fat diet without avocado or a low fat diet without avocado. While the study can’t be generalized to all populations, it provides further evidence that avocados may have positive effect on cardiovascular disease biomarkers.
This ruling confirms that people can choose to eat avocados daily for heart health benefits and underscores the full range of heart health qualities of avocados – they contain naturally good fats and are cholesterol and sodium-free.
“This ruling is a huge opportunity for the entire Hass avocado industry, as it confirms that fresh avocados play an important nutritional role in a heart-healthy diet,” said Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board (HAB). “All fresh Hass avocados have long been recognized for their range of health and wellness benefits, and now we can more directly promote their positive role in a heart-healthy diet.”
Escobedo added that the HAB’s nutrition research program, established in 2010, is committed to increasing awareness and improving understanding of the unique benefits of avocados to human health and nutrition. He said this new guidance on heart health is in line with the latest body of research exploring the relationship between avocado consumption and risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Now that the fruit itself is eligible to apply for Heart-Check certification, HAB and its member organizations will continue to strengthen the industry’s nutrition education efforts to promote heart-healthy eating with fresh avocados and the heart health connection for consumers.