Scientists discovered avocado may block free radical damage
May 7, 2012 | By Mary West
Scientists have discovered some impressive, previously unknown health benefits of avocados. This exotic fruit was found to have potent anti-aging properties, in addition to the ability to fight certain diseases due to its unique capacity to protect against free radicals.
This distinctive feature of avocados centers on mitochondria, structures that serve as the power supply of cells. Many environmental pollutants like cigarette smoke and radiation can transform oxygen molecules contained within mitochondria into free radicals, which are destructive unstable molecules. These unstable substances harm cells of many compounds, such as protein, lipids and DNA, changing them into free radicals as well. This detrimental process is linked with aging, and it also plays a role in the development of an array of illnesses.
Since mitochondria play a vital role in free radical damage, researchers have tried unsuccessfully to find antioxidants in fruit and vegetables that can gain entrance into these structures. Without an agent to stop the free radical damage of mitochondria, the destructive process can continue unimpeded within the body.
But a new study found that avocado antioxidants are able to enter mitochondria and boost their energy activity, permitting them to function in a healthy manner even while being vigorously attacked by free radicals. It is this quality that distinguishes avocados from fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants unable to penetrate these energy-producing powerhouses.
The study author Christian Cortés-Rojo compares the effect of avocados to other antioxidants. He provides the analogy of an oil spill, indicating that some measures merely clean up the oil without stopping the escape of the oil from its source. Antioxidants from other food sources could be likened to the measures that help clean up the oil, while antioxidants from avocados could be compared to a measure that actually helps stop the oil flow.
Aside from the exciting benefit of hindering the negative impact of oxygen in the body, avocados have been found to lower cholesterol and help alleviate diabetes. The type of fat present in this fruit is also helpful in fighting many other illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer.
Results of the study were presented at a meeting of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Because Cortés-Rojo’s team used yeast to investigate the effects of avocados, the author emphasizes the need to confirm the findings in research involving humans.