December 17 2020
Olive oil lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke
Olive oil gives a hearty boost to a balanced diet to help maintain good cardiovascular health. Indeed, a wealth of scientific literature addresses the key role virgin or extra virgin olive oil can play in the prevention many heart diseases.
The antioxidant properties of a good virgin or extra virgin olive oil can prevent the inflammation and hardening (atherosclerosis) of blood vessel walls. Several mechanisms act together to improve the blood lipid profile, including cholesterol and triglyceride levels.,, Some studies suggest that replacing saturated fats, ever present in our modern Western diet, with the good monounsaturated fats found in olive oil is the key to these benefits. In other words, the quality of the types of fat we consume matters more than the quantity. However, do keep in mind that as with all things, balance and moderation are always in good taste, even for the most beneficial foods!
A major study called PREDIMED looked at the preventive benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet in some 7,500 subjects presenting a high risk of cardiovascular issues. After 5 years, this study concludes and maintains that a Mediterranean diet, including healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil and nuts, has a greater preventive effect against heart disease than a low-fat diet. Another study showed that among subjects who already suffered a heart attack, following a Mediterranean diet could lower by 50 to 70% the risk of suffering a second event, and also of developing other cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart failure and pulmonary embolism.
A World First
The health benefits of olive oil are derived in good part from its unique polyphenols, such as hydroxytyrosol. The versatile, protective impacts of these polyphenols are so effective that in 2011, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a health claim on the subject. They were the first polyphenols to receive such an honour!
“The polyphenols found in olive oil help protect blood lipids against oxidative stress.”
Concretely, the polyphenols found in olive oil protect blood lipids against cell damage caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that may present health risks. To fully enjoy these benefits, consume around 15 ml (1 tablespoon) virgin or extra virgin olive oil daily, as part of a balanced diet.
Mazzocchi, Alessandra, et al. “The Secrets of the Mediterranean Diet. Does [Only] Olive Oil Matter?” Nutrients, MDPI, 3 Dec. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6949890/.
Marcelino G;Hiane PA;Freitas KC;Santana LF;Pott A;Donadon JR;Guimarães RCA; “Effects of Olive Oil and Its Minor Components on Cardiovascular Diseases, Inflammation, and Gut Microbiota.” Nutrients, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 7 Aug. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6722810/.
Estruch, Ramón, et al. “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts: NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 4 Oct. 2018, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1800389.
Kris-Etherton, Penny, et al. “Lyon Diet Heart Study.” Circulation, 3 Apr. 2001, www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.cir.103.13.1823.
Gorzynik-Debicka, Monika, et al. “Potential Health Benefits of Olive Oil and Plant Polyphenols.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, MDPI, 28 Feb. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877547/.
 The claim can only be used for an olive oil containing at least 5 mg hydroxytyrosol and derived compounds (such as oleuropein complex and tyrosol) per 20 g of oil. The claim can be used if consumers are notified beneficial effects are achieved with a 20 g daily olive oil consumption.