After a recent Facebook video went viral, purporting the health benefits of avocado pits, a growing number of blogs and websites— too numerous to count—jumped aboard. Now, when it comes to avocados, I agree wholeheartedly that they are one of nature’s wonder foods. In fact, I probably consume a bushel of them a month. And when I’m not eating them, I’m using them as a body facial and hair conditioner. With that being said, it’s reasonable to assume that I love them so much, I even bathe in them. So when someone suggested I use the pits in my smoothie, it sounded like a no-brainer. But before I overtaxed my blender, I wanted more factual information on the subject. The reason I resist health fads is that invariably once the “buzz” dies down, any initial benefits reported were at best a placebo effect or, worse, later created toxic side effects. A similar fad from the 1970’s springs to mind surrounding apricot seeds as a preventative treatment and cure for cancer. It was later proved to be not only false but toxic and lethal. This isn’t to say that I am not an advocate for alternative, homeopathic medicine— I am—or that food in its purest form isn’t the body’s preferred medicine. It is. But it behooves one to do a little research and the weigh the facts before leaping on the latest health-craze bandwagon.
In reviewing the research conducted, this is what we know so far: Retrospectively since 1989, upwardly of 25 studies have been published on avocado seed extract, of which several hypotheses were presented to determine its possible effect on diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, and as an antimicrobial. A recent study published in Scientific World Journal concluded: The lack of in vivo genotoxic activity of the extract allows us to hope that the P. americana seed extract could be used as a possible food, cosmetic, or pharmaceutical material. And while these findings may sound promising, they’re based solely on the extract, not the actual seed. The inherent problem with seeds such as apricot, apple, peach, cherry, and even avocado is that they contain trace elements of amygdalin that converts to cyanide in the gastrointestinal tract and is considered toxic. And although research conducted in 2013 at Pennsylvania State University found that avocado seeds are rich in phytochemicals, their bioavailability to humans is still unknown and further investigation is needed. Based on this, can one infer that avocado seeds are safe to consume? I’m resigned to defer to the experts on this. If the California Avocado Commission is clearly recommending Not eating avocado pits— and they do know a little something about avocados as well as being in the business to sell them— and if Today’s Dietitian, an online resource magazine for dietary professionals is debunking these sensationalized claims, well, then, it gives me pause.
Personally, I’m a full-fledged proponent of nature in the raw and would normally embrace the idea. But if someone rests their hypothesis on if the fruit is good, then the seed must be better—without investigative research— it’s anchored to a slippery slope. Knowledge is the road to empowerment, and if information is how we get there, then relying on limited information or misinformation as a guide could prove to be detrimental in the end. In light of this, I prefer to error on the side of caution and adjourn to enjoy the rich buttery flavor of avocados and the nutrient-dense benefits they provide that, through critical review, have been substantiated as bio available (see abstract) and wait for more compelling scientific evidence before hitching my wagon…to the pits.
The person who posted the video on Facebook is neither a licensed registered dietitian nor certified in an accredited field of plant-based nutrition to qualify these assertions and to date has added an addendum to their website amending their original claims regarding the health benefits of consuming avocado pits.