June 11 - Researchers in Mexico say avocado oil could be used to counteract the effects of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Acocado is already well-known for its cholesterol-fighting properties but now, the scientists say it contains antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by environmental factors like radiation of air pollution. Rob Muir reports.
Mexico is the world's largest producer of avocados, prized for their flavour, texture and health benefits. But it appears that oil from the avocado is far more powerful than previously thought. Researchers led by Christian Cortes Rojo from the University of Michoacan have discovered that the fruit contains potent antioxidants that he says could help counteract the effects of diseases like diabetes and hypertension, where mitochondrial cell function is disrupted. Mitochondria reside inside cells, generating energy for cell growth, but they're susceptible to damage from environmental factors like pollution and radiation, which turn them into unstable molecules called free radicals that can damage the rest of the cell. The phenomenon is also known to be associated with the aging process. Using yeast cells as a medium, Cortes Rojo says avocado oil was extremely effective in protecting rhe cell walls when exposed to high conentrations of free radicals. And he says if it can work with yeast, it can work with human cells. (SOUNDBITE) CHRISTIAN CORTES ROJO, MEDICAL BIOLOGIST FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHOACAN IN SAN NICOLAS HIDALGO, SAYING: " In that case of illnesses in which the mitochondria is damaged, avocado oil could help organs withstand or be more resistant to oxidative stresses." Cortes Rojo says further experiments on animal models could lead to new methods of prevention using the chemical ingredients of avocado oil. (SOUNDBITE) CHRISTIAN CORTES ROJO, MEDICAL BIOLOGIST FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHOACAN IN SAN NICOLAS HIDALGO, SAYING: "We have planned to conduct these studies, and are already conducting them, to look into diabetes and hypertension. Those are diseases in which oxidative stresses clearly exist at a mitochondrial level, and that results in damage to cell functions." For avocado export companies like Avo Plus, the results of the research are good news. Company researcher Ana Lissette Miranda says the industry must spread the word. . (SOUNDBITE) ANA LISSETE MIRANDA, HEAD RESEARCHER FOR AVO PLUS, SAYING: "What's missing is the diffusion of this information about the properties of the oil. With scientific backing, this could be beneficial to the consumer in that they will know that they are really consuming a product that benefits their health." Another reason, says Miranda for people to eat more avocado - good for the health and good for Mexico. Rob Muir, Reuters.