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HONOLULU, Dec. 18 - Researchers in Japan have discovered that avocados contain potent chemicals that may reduce liver damage. The finding could lead to the development of new drugs to treat liver disease, the researchers say. They presented their findings today during the 2000 International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies.
The weeklong scientific meeting, held once every five years, is hosted by the American Chemical Society, in conjunction with its counterparts in Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.
To evaluate the protective activity of food against liver injury, the researchers fed 22 different fruits to a group of rats with liver damage caused by galactosamine, a powerful liver toxin. As measured by changes in the levels of specific liver enzymes, the avocado showed the most potent activity among these fruits in slowing liver damage, according to the lead researchers, Hirokazu Kawagishi, Ph.D., and Kimio Sugiyama, Ph.D., professors at Shizuoka University in Shizuoka, Japan.
"Besides offering taste and nutrition, avocados seem to improve liver health," says Kawagishi. "People should eat more of them."
Five compounds appear to be active in reducing liver damage. Each was tested in rats with chemically induced liver injuries. The injuries resembled those caused by viruses, suggesting that avocado extracts may be especially promising for the treatment of viral hepatitis, according to the researchers.
The investigators do not know whether the results from the rat studies will translate into liver protection among humans, how much avocado extract it will take to have a beneficial effect, or how the active chemicals work. Further studies are needed, they say.