by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.
Have you heard? There’s this viral craze going on, encouraging people to eat avocado pits.
But the problem is that there is no “new” study showing that eating avocado pits is safe or beneficial.
In fact, there is no study at all showing the benefits (or risks) of eating avocado pits.
So where does this viral craze come from?
“Avocado seeds may improve hypercholesterolemia, and be useful in the treatment of hypertension, inflammatory conditions and diabetes. Seeds have also been found to possess insecticidal, fungicidal, and anti-microbial activities.”
Is this true?
Well. I downloaded and fully read the “research”. What did I find?
The cited “research” is a summary of past scientific trials, where lab scientists extracted phytochemical compounds from avocado pits, and then tested those compounds in isolation.
So no one ate any pits. Whole or ground.
Testing the pharmacological action of hyper-concentrated doses of phytochemicals (in-vitro or in rodents) does not equate to eating pits.
Eating pits: safe or unsafe?
The truth is that avocado pits have not yet been tested for “safe human consumption”, and it is suspected that they could be “mildly toxic”.
I found one study that established the toxicity of pit extracts in mice. Acute toxicity (and death!) was seen at extract doses above 500 mg per kilogram of body weight.
Avocado pits may have beneficial compounds and fibre. But they also contain high concentrations of less desirable substances, including:
- Dose-dependant toxicants such as arsenic, amygdalin, furfural, boric acid, acetic acid, and oxalic acid. Some of these substances are also found in peach, plum, and mango kernels, and, to a lesser extent, in apple seeds.
- Antinutrients like tannins, oxalates, and phytic acid. These digestive irritants are called “antinutrients” because they reduce or impair the absorption of essential nutrients (e.g. minerals) in your gastrointestinal tract. Most foods contain a bit of these, but avocado pits have fairly high levels.
The avocado pit is discarded in most countries. Although some rural Nigerian communities use pit extracts for medicinal purposes.
Because the non-edible parts of avocados (peel and pit) could be a cheaper source of phytochemical extracts, food manufacturers are considering their exploitation.
For example, a 2014 study investigated avocado pit extracts as “antioxidant additives” to be used in processed foods like burgers, so they can have a longer shelf life.
Other studies looked at certain types of pit extracts which could be applied as “natural food colourants”.
Again, this is all about purified pit extracts and oils. And not the pit itself.
There’s this 2016 paper circulating the internet that talks about boiling or soaking the pit to reduce their levels of toxicants and antinutrients. But it also states that boiling or soaking removes most of the beneficial antioxidants! E.g. 81% loss of vitamin C.
Unfortunately, this paper was published in the “Pelagia Research Library”, a dubious journal that has no impact factor, labelled by some reviews as “fake” and “bogus”. Meaning that we cannot take this paper as “true and valid”.
What to do?
I love avocados and eat a small one almost every day. But I’ll pass on the pits for now. At least until I can see they’ve been properly tested as safe for human consumption, including any long-term side effects and contraindications.
Since most people may not be aware of this, including your family and friends, show how much you care by sharing this with them:
Links to the science
If you wish to geek out further, these are the links to the science:
- Avocado (Persea americana) Seed as a Source of Bioactive Phytochemicals. Dabas et al., 2013.
- Acute Toxicity and Genotoxic Activity of Avocado Seed Extract (Persea americana Mill., c.v. Hass). Padilla-Camberos et al., 2013.
- Aqueous extracts of avocado pear (Persea americana Mill.) leaves and seeds exhibit anti-cholinesterases and antioxidant activities in vitro. Oboh et al., 2016.
- Avocado Seeds: Extraction Optimization and Possible Use as Antioxidant in Food. Segovia Gómez et al., 2014.
- The phytochemical and pharmacological profile of Persea americana Mill. Das et al., 2010.
- Antioxidant capacities, procyanidins and pigments in avocados of different strains and cultivars. Gu et al., 2010.
- A colored avocado seed extract as a potential natural colorant. Dabas et al., 2011.
- The Preliminary Study of the Dye Extraction from the Avocado Seed Using Ultrasonic Assisted Extraction. Ariestya Arlene et al., 2015.
Have your say!
Have you ever eaten (or considered eating) avocado pits? What do you think of trends like this? What concerns do you have when people follow them without understanding the risks?
Let us know in the comments below!