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One Surprising Side Effect of Eating Avocado, According to Science

Eating more of this food—as well as others high in oleic acid—may help manage symptoms of this autoimmune disease.
FACT CHECKED BY Checkmark Cheyenne Buckingham
Toastless avocado toast

Avocados are referred to as a superfood for a reason—these powerhouses contain so many of the vitamins and nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Many of us already know that avocados hold a host of health benefits and have been shown to lower your risk of certain life-threatening diseases, increase your good cholesterol levels (HDL), and even improve your eyesight. (Related: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now)

Now, scientists have uncovered another potential benefit of this healthy food. A new study led by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine revealed that diets rich in the oleic acid, (which is found in various foods including avocados, olives, nuts, and cheese, for example) can help fight the effects of multiple sclerosis.

The effects of multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that damages the brain and spinal cord, can be mediated by the T cells in your immune system, Yale explains. These T cells can be activated by the presence of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid abundant in avocado as well as other foods such as nuts and olive oil.

Conversely, the lack of this fatty acid can leave your T cells inactive, causing the immune system to attack your body. The researchers found that when they introduced oleic acid in vitro, they saw higher levels of the T cells needed to suppress dangerous symptoms associated with MS.

Of course, this doesn't mean that by simply eating enough avocado, you can be totally safe from the autoimmune disease—or even fully manage symptoms if you already have it.

As senior author David Hafler, MD, FANA, of the Yale School of Medicine, tells Eat This, Not That!, "We can't make recommendations based on these in vitro experiments, other than to say that a healthy diet, with low saturated fats and low salt…is probably a good idea. We plan to investigate in the future whether a diet rich in oleic acid changes immune function."

Still, it's a promising sign—there may be a connection between the oleic acid you eat in various foods and the way your T cells combat the disease.

For more science-backed nutritional recommendations for suppressing the effects of MS, check out The Foods To Eat and Avoid If You Have an Autoimmune Disease.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more
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