By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Live longer and healthier with olive oil! That’s the clear conclusion European researchers came to through 2 new studies. In the first, an analysis of 42 previous studies involving health and dietary data from more than 800,000 subjects, researchers found that, among all types of monounsaturated fats tested, higher intake of olive oil alone was associated with a significantly reduced risk of death from all diseases (including cardiovascular events), as well as substantial reduction in the risk of cardiovascular events and stroke.
Extra virgin olive oil is the main source of monounsaturated fat in the Mediterranean diet. The researchers noted that, in Western diets, meats, such as ham, pork chops, beef, hot dogs, and burgers are the primary sources of monounsaturated fat.
In another study, researchers randomly divided 25 healthy men into two groups. For three consecutive weeks, the participants in one group consumed 25 ml (a little more than 1.5 Tbsp) per day of olive oil with high antioxidant compound content. Participants in the other group took the same daily amount of olive oil during the same three week period, except their olive oil had low antioxidant compound content. The researchers wanted to compare the effects of the two kinds of olive oil on atherogenicity, that is, the formation of cardiovascular disease causing inflammation in arterial walls. The high antioxidant olive oil was the clear winner, showing significant potency to reduce both the number and oxidation of cholesterol particles that figure into the early stages of arterial disease.
The highest concentration of natural antioxidant compounds in olive oil is found in the extra-virgin variety. Plain refined olive oil has a lesser concentration.
My Viewpoint: Here’s more evidence for why I call extra-virgin olive oil the “secret sauce” of the Mediterranean Diet. Now, a review analysis of multiple previous studies with a massive database shows a significant longevity dividend against all diseases, including stroke and cardiovascular disease. In the small study, a strong antioxidant effect was seen from consumption of olive oil over a short period of time: a curb in the number of certain cholesterol particles and in the vulnerability of these particles to experience free radical oxidative damage – which is involved at the outset of arterial disease.
What This Means to You: Simple. Research is constantly validating the health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil and providing ever more incentive to make it a fixture in everyone’s daily diet. Please check out an earlier article I wrote about other benefits, not just for cardiovascular disease, but also for a reduced risk of diabetes, cancer, and age-related mental decline.
Recommendation: I am not a fan of cooking with olive oil at high temperatures because it can oxidize. Rather, I prefer applying it generously on salads, and to spread onto meats, fish, and vegetables in order to add and bring out flavor. One of my favorite recipes is adding olive oil, minced garlic, and freshly squeezed lemon juice to steamed asparagus. That’s a power food combination.
- Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil and health status: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Lipids HealthDis. 2014;13:154.
- Hernáez A, et al. Olive Oil Polyphenols Decrease LDL Concentrations and LDL Atherogenicity in Men in a Randomized Controlled Trial. J. Nutr. 2015.
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