This article was previously published on July 8, 2020 and has been updated with new information.
The fact that most olive oils on the market are fraudulently diluted with cheaper (and more harmful) oils has been known for years. And now the report1,2,3 in the journal Food Control warns that the purity and quality of avocado oil sold in the U.S. is questionable at best, and that standards to protect consumers and true producers are urgently needed.
Counterfeit avocado oil is common
According to the food control report,4 the vast majority of commercially available avocado oils labeled as “extra virgin” and “refined” are actually counterfeit and of poor quality; It was found that 82% ran out before the expiration date.5
Three of the 22 oils were not even avocado oil but something completely different (probably soybean oil). Co-author Selina Wang told the Olive Oil Times6 yes, although she expected “some percentage of adulterers,” she was shocked to discover several cases of 100% counterfeiting. As stated in the report:7
“This study analyzed avocado oils currently on the U.S. market to assess their quality (e.g., free fatty acid, peroxide value, UV absorption, vitamin E) and purity (e.g., fatty acids, sterols, triacylglycerols) .
Our results showed that most commercial samples were oxidized before the expiration date stated on the bottle. In addition, in two ‘extra virgin’ and one ‘refined’ samples, soybean oil was adulterated at levels close to 100%.
How cleanliness and quality are assessed
As explained in the Food Control Report,8 The oil is considered authentic and pure when no additives or other oils are added and when the content corresponds to that on the label.
Quality includes consideration of the raw material (quality of the avocado used), the extraction and storage process used, but it is “mainly related to the level of fruit hydrolysis and oil oxidation”. With this report, the authors began compiling a database “to support the development of standards for this industry”.
A total of 22 samples of avocado oil were obtained from six grocery stores and two online sources, covering major brands and types of oil, including extra virgin / unrefined and refined. Countries of origin included California, Mexico, Brazil and Spain.
While previous researchers suggested that healthy levels of free fatty acid (FFA) should be between 0.1% and 0.55% for refined avocado oils, three of the 22 samples had FFA values close to 2.5%. Extra virgin avocado oil had an FFA range between 0.03% and 2.69%, with an overall average of 1.31%.
According to the authors, these elevated FFA levels may be due to poor fruit quality and / or poor handling during processing.9
“Unhealthy fruit that is damaged, crushed, overripe, infested with insects; a long time between harvest and processing; overheating during processing are all factors that can contribute to an increase in FFA,” the authors note.
To make this easier for you to understand, I’m sure you’ve opened overripe avocados in the past to see how the ripe green color of the avocado becomes very dark, almost black. Can you imagine that a whole avocado is black when you open it and process it and turn it into oil? Well, that’s exactly what you do when you buy rancid avocado oil.
High oxidation is common
When the oil is exposed to oxygen, peroxides and other oxidation products are formed, thus giving the oil undesirable odors and flavors. Although not as striking as FFA values, the trend toward high oxidation was also evident. In other words, many oils were rancid long before the “best” deadline.
Extra virgin avocado oil had the highest oxidation values, which is expected, because the refining process removes peroxides. However, many refined oils also had higher peroxide levels than expected. In fact, all but three samples were above the Mexican CODEX cap.
Not surprisingly, the three samples with the highest peroxide levels were stored in clear rather than colored packaging. This makes sense, because colored bottles protect against photooxidation.
Storage time also contributes to greater oxidation. The longer the oil stays, the more likely it is to oxidize, so always check the best by the date. Unfortunately, the higher price does not guarantee quality, as the most expensive oil estimated in this review also had the highest peroxidation value.
Excessive vitamin E content suggests fraud
Vitamin E content was also measured, and excessive levels in some samples suggest counterfeiting with cheap soybean oil. As explained in the Food Control Report:10
“There are eight compounds that make up the content of vitamin E, four tocopherols (⁇-tocopherol, β-tocopherol, γ-tocopherol, δ-tocopherol) and four tocotrienols…
This study shows that several samples (EV3, EV6, R1, U4, U5, U6) had a total tocopherol content over 400 mg / kg, which is interesting because the highest documented total tocopherol content in the literature is, to our knowledge, 282 mg / kg.
In particular, there are three samples with extremely high total tocopherol content, EV3, EV6 and U6 at 645.4 mg / kg, 906.2 mg / kg and 692.9 mg / kg, respectively. These samples had significantly higher levels of gamma and delta tocopherols compared to other samples in this study and the values seen in the avocado oil literature.
A study reporting tocopherol content in fruits and vegetables showed that soybean oil has similar levels and distribution of tocopherols as in EV3, EV6 and U6, so it is possible that these samples contain soy or soy tocopherols were added after canning. “
Industry standards are urgently needed
The food control report is the first to show that there are serious problems in the avocado oil industry. Just like olive oil, much of what is sold is counterfeit and of inferior quality. As the authors concluded:11
“Most of the samples were of low quality, and five of the seven oils labeled as‘ extra virgin ’had high FFA values, and six of the nine‘ refined ’oils had high PV [peroxidation value]. FFA, PV and specific extinction in UV data have shown that these oils are subject to lipolysis or oxidation.
This is probably the result of improper or prolonged storage, use of damaged or spoiled fruit, or extreme and difficult processing conditions. Extra virgin oils are often more expensive and differ from lower quality ones such as virgin or crude oils using the above quality parameters.
The soybean oil counterfeit was found in two samples labeled “extra virgin” avocado oil (EV3 and EV6) and one labeled “pure” avocado oil (U6).
Data on tocopherols, fatty acids, sterols, and TAGs indicate that this forgery occurs at or near 100% for all three samples. This not only poses a potential threat to consumer health, but also creates unfair competition in the market…
In the case of samples EV3, EV6 and U6, an error was confirmed with the percentage of forgery and the wrong oil. However, the need for standards is also shown by samples R1, U4 and U5.
The variance seen in their fatty acid, sterol, TAG and tocopherol profiles could be due to natural deviations of avocados, processing conditions or unnatural economic counterfeiting with high-oleic sunflower or saffron oils. “
Benefits of authentic avocado oil
I personally have never used avocado oil as I usually avoid processed oils, with the exception of our own biodynamic olive oil Solspring. I think it is far better to eat whole foods. That’s exactly what I do – I have half an avocado in each of my smoothies with collagen protein powder every day.
As detailed in “Avocado keeps the doctor away”, avocado is full of healthy fats that your body can easily use for energy. They are also rich in fiber, protein and essential vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, potassium, folate and vitamin K, and have been shown to act against metabolic syndrome.
Given the excellent nutritional profile of avocados, it is no wonder that avocado oil has grown in popularity in recent years. However, extracting oil and bottling allows for many opportunities for fraud, as the food control report shows.
Unfortunately, the report does not list the brands researched, so it cannot be used as a guide when shopping. Provided you can really find authentic avocado oil, it can be a very healthy addition to your diet. The health benefits of authentic avocado oil include:12,13,14
- Normalizes blood pressure, thanks to the high content of potassium and vitamin E, which supports healthy blood vessel function and fights free radicals15
- Anti-inflammatory effects, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions16
- Detoxification, thanks to the high content of chlorophyll (which is also a natural source of magnesium) and glutathione17
- Improving collagen production, thanks to vitamins A and D. High levels of protein and amino acids also help tissue regeneration and cell renewal18
- Supports healthy eyesight thanks to the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin19
Do you need to cook with avocado oil?
Avocado oil is usually said to have a high smoke point, although the height of the smoke varies depending on the source. Masterclass.com lists it between 375 degrees Fahrenheit and 400 degrees F in one chart, while it lists it at 480 degrees F for the unrefined and 520 degrees F for the refined in the other.20
Australian researchers, meanwhile, cite a smoke point of around 386 degrees F (196.67 degrees Celsius plus or minus 0.577 degrees C).21 Either way, many have relied on the higher smoking point of avocado oil to recommend that it be used during cooking, baking and frying at high temperatures.
However, Australian researchers are presenting evidence that this is not such a good idea. Study,22 published in 2018, assessed the correlation between the smoking point of different oils and other chemical characteristics related to stability and safety.
Importantly, they found that “the smoke point does not predict the performance of the oil when heated”. Avocado oil was one of 10 tested cooking oils. Paradoxically, they found that oils with higher smoking points, such as avocado oil, actually produce higher levels of harmful compounds during heating – including trans fats.
For this reason, I do not recommend avocado oil for cooking. It is likely that it is better to use it cold. Without a doubt, your best alternatives to cooking at high temperatures, baking and frying include lard, grass-fed butter and organic ghee. Coconut oil can also be a healthier alternative when cooking than avocado oil, as it is known to be quite resistant to high temperatures. An Australian study also seems to support this.