Teens eating avocados

Avocado consumption is associated with higher diet quality in adolescents, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at Loma Linda University and University of New Mexico.

The study’s results showed avocado consumers’ diet quality to be significantly higher than those who never consumed avocado. The study analyzed data from 534 adolescents ranging from 12-18 years of age who attended public and Adventist middle- and high-schools in Michigan and southern California.

Lead author of the paper, Gina S. Siapco, DrPH, associate professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health, says avocado is a nutrient-dense food not common in many cuisines; however, when on the menu it usually accompanies healthy vegetables. This accounts for the study finding higher intake of plant-based foods and commonly deficient nutrients in avocado consumers.

“We were surprised the study seemed to indicate an environmental influence on the food choices of our adolescents,” said Siapco. “This means parents and schools can shape the food intake of adolescents that they will probably carry on into their adult years.”

The study, “Associations between Avocado Consumption and Diet Quality, Dietary Intake, Measures of Obesity and Body Composition in Adolescents: The Teen Food and Development Study,” was published in Nutrients, a journal of human nutrition, in December 2021.

This is the first study connecting avocado with adolescents to analyze their diet quality and health. While similar studies have been completed with adult data, the lack of knowledge of adolescent diet quality left a gaping hole. Siapco says studying adolescents’ dietary habits is important because adolescents are in a crucial stage of life where they cement many habits that affect their future health as adults.

The study’s avocado consumers did not eat a high amount of avocado — only about 2/3 of a medium avocado per week. Siapco says that although more studies would be needed to determine avocado’s beneficial health effects, exposure to avocado indirectly benefits the health of teens, since avocado commonly appears on plates with other plant foods. Siapco says parents and schools need to incorporate more plant foods into the teen diet, since these entities shape the food choices of children.

“Since they’re not the ones buying the food, adolescents eat whatever they’re exposed to,” Siapco says. “Our kids should be exposed to more foods that will help them to have a healthier and better diet quality.”

Siapco hopes parents and schools will use these results to improve the diet quality in their children and avoid health problems such as childhood obesity, which often follows a person throughout their life.

“With further study, we’ll be able to help parents and adolescents see the issues that surround adolescents regarding their diet,” says Siapco. “Maybe, we’ll even be able to help intervene.”

The study is a secondary research study using data from the Teen Food and Development Study from 2014. This study was funded by the Hass Avocado Board.

More information about research at Loma Linda University Health is available online.