New research shows that eating avocados regularly can improve your diet quality and lower your risk of metabolic syndrome.

A study published in the January 2013 issue of the Nutrition Journal reviewed data nutritional data from 2001 to 2008 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), finding that avocado consumption was significantly associated with improved overall diet quality, nutrient intake, and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.

Avocado eaters were also thinner, with lower body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference than people who did not eat avocado, along with higher levels of HDL, the "good" cholesterol.

They also has diets that contained significantly higher intake of vegetables and fruit, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, dietary fiber, vitamins E, K, magnesium, and potassium; and lower intakes of added sugars, which are generally related to poor health.

Avocado benefits include nutrient density, and containing healthful ingredients like dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, phytochemicals, and essential nutrients like potassium, lutein, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, B vitamins, and folic acid.

Monounsaturated fat is associated with lower risk for heart disease.

The NHANES sample included 17,567 people over 19 years of age, and 2% of the sample regularly consumed avocados. The average intake among consumers was half of a medium-sized avocado per day.

This is the first study to investigate potential avocado benefits by examining  the relationship between avocado consumption in this sample and diet quality. Since the NHANES is conducted on a randomized sample of civilian Americans, its findings can be generalized to the population at large.

The study was sponsored by the Hass Avocado Board, and was intended to investigate the relationship between avocado consumption and overall diet quality, energy and nutrient intakes, physiological health indicators, and risk for metabolic syndrome.

The researchers acknowledged that, since the survey was based on 24-hour daily dietary recalls, the people who responded to the survey may not have accurately recalled their daily intake levels.

Also, since the sample of avocado eaters in the overall sample was relatively small, the data might have other confounds that influenced the results.

Though the review did not pinpoint eating avocados as the cause of the correlated health benefits, it suggests an intriguing relationship between a diet containing avocados and better health measures.

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

It is increasingly common in the United States, and is strongly correlated to obesity. The main risk factors for metabolic syndrom are extra weight around the middle and upper body, and insulin resistance.

Additional research can more specifically examine whether a causative relationship exists between eating avocados and health markers, and whether eating avocados can decrease risk factors of metabolic syndrome.

The takeaway: even if eating avocados does not directly cause health benefits, people who eat avocados weigh significantly less, have better overall diets, and a lower risk for metabolic syndrome.