In a first of its kind study, scientists have closely examined the contents of avocado seed husks and discovered these flaky coatings to be incredibly rich in useful chemical compounds. Among those discovered are compounds that could be used to improve treatments for cancers, heart disease and other conditions further down the track.

The research was led by scientists from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, who were interested to find out if anything useful was going to waste when we slice and dice our avocados and toss away the seeds. This meant grinding up 300 dried avocado seed husks into 21 ounces of powder, which was in turn processed and converted into seed husk oil and wax.

Using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry analysis, the team found 116 compounds in the oil and 16 in the wax, many of which do not appear in the avocado seeds themselves. Among these was behenyl alcohol, which is used in anti-viral medications; heptacosane, which might possibly inhibit tumor growth; and dodecanoic acid, which can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.

And the findings could have ramifications beyond the medical realm, as well. In the wax, the team discovered a plasticizer called benzyl butyl phthalate that is used to improve flexibility in various products, including shower curtains and medical devices. The researchers also found other compounds used in cosmetics and as food additives.

"It could very well be that avocado seed husks, which most people consider as the waste of wastes, are actually the gem of gems because the medicinal compounds within them could eventually be used to treat cancer, heart disease and other conditions," says Dr. Debasish Bandyopadhyay, who led the study. "Our results also suggest that the seed husks are a potential source of chemicals used in plastics and other industrial products."

From here, the team will begin investigating how some of these natural compounds can possibly be modified and used in more effective medications with fewer side effects. It is presenting the findings today at the 254th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

Source: American Chemical Society