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A drizzle of Olivado’s avocado oil over warming soup or in the casserole pot this winter, may keep ageing at bay, according to research released this week.

New Zealand’s original extra virgin avocado oil, Olivado, is similar in composition to olive oil, consumption of which is associated with unusually low levels of chronic disease in some Mediterranean countries.

Fat pressed from the ‘alligator pear’ could be a potent weapon against conditions such as heart disease and cancer, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in San Diego, US.

New research conducted in Mexico has now demonstrated its power to combat destructive rogue oxygen molecules. These unstable “free radicals” wreak havoc in the body, triggering chain reactions that destroy cell membranes, proteins and even DNA.

The phenomenon is one of the prime drivers of ageing and believed to play a major role in damage to arteries and cancer. Oxygen free radicals, or “reactive oxygen species”, are natural waste products of metabolism but may be generated in greater numbers due to factors such as pollution, tobacco smoke and radiation.

One hotspot for free radicals is mitochondria, rod-like bodies in cells that act as energy power plants. Many “antioxidant” chemicals in vegetables and fruits such as carrots and tomatoes are known to neutralise free radicals. But according to Christopher Cortes-Rojo, who led the research on avocado oil, they cannot reach the free radicals in mitochondria.

“The problem is that the antioxidants in those substances are unable to enter mitochondria,” said Mr Cortes-Rojo, from the University Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo in Morelia, Mexico.

“So free radicals go on damaging mitochondria, causing energy production to stop and the cell to collapse and die. An analogy would be that, during an oil spill, if we cleaned only the spilled oil instead of fixing the perforation where oil is escaping, then the oil would go on spilling, and fish would die anyway.”

Experiments on yeast showed that avocado oil was effective against mitochondrial free radicals. Yeast cells treated with the oil were able to survive high exposure to iron, which triggers production of huge numbers of the molecules.

“These results could be attributed to the fact that avocado oil caused accelerated respiration in mitochondria, which indicate that the use of nutrients for producing energy for cell functions remains effective even in cells attacked by free radicals,” said Mr Cortes-Rojo.

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