Olive Oil and Heart HealthJune 2, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
One of the great obstacles in making dietary changes is the lack of assurance as to what the outcome will be. Will the effort expended to change translate into real world results? In certain instances scientific testing can help quantify objective improvements derived from lifestyle modification. Examples include regularly testing your blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol levels. But before even considering new health practices, most people would like to know the basis for making such a change.
Olive oil is one of the top foods recommended to promote cardiovascular health. Doctors and nutritionists often point out that It’s a major component of the Mediterranean Diet, and that people who consume a diet rich in olive oil tend to exhibit better heart health than societies who utilize other forms of fat. Here are some recent scientific findings that may help to explain why olive oil has achieved this lofty status in the cardiovascular arena.
A study published in March assessed the effects of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) on various blood lipids in a group of 34 men with elevated cholesterol levels. The average age of the participants was 46. At the beginning of the study, their average cholesterol level was 235 mg/dl. (1)
The group was split into two and given either 2 grams or 4 grams a day of encapsulated EVOO for a total of three months. Blood tests were taken prior to the start of the study and directly afterward. Here’s what the researchers discovered:
- The volunteers taking the higher dose of EVOO showed an increase in Apolipoprotein A1 (Apo-A1), which is found in HDL “good” cholesterol and helps to keep arteries clear and healthy.
- The group receiving 4 grams of EVOO demonstrated a significant drop in levels of Apolipoprotein B (APOB), a substance associated with the formation of plaque build up in artery walls.
- The 4 gram group also found a trend of reduction in triglycerides, a type of blood fat that may be an even greater risk factor for heart disease and stroke risk.
In conclusion, the authors of this study state that, “daily supplementation, on top of the normal diet, of at least 4 grams of extra virgin olive oil, in mildly hypercholesterolemic subjects, is associated to favorable modifications of plasmatic lipid profile.”
In addition to the positive changes in blood fats, two other factors relating to heart health have recently been noted in the scientific literature.
- Blood Pressure - In April of 2009, a 12 month trial conducted on male rats found that EVOO improved blood pressure even when given as part of a high calorie diet. Corn oil and a refined olive oil did not exhibit the same benefit. (2) The fact that olive oil can lower blood pressure is pretty well established. (3) However, how it does so is still under debate. Some scientists believe that the phenolic antioxidants in minimally processed olive oil are responsible for the hypotensive reaction. Others are investigating whether this effect may result from the presence of a fatty acid in olive oil called oleic acid. (4) If you consume EVOO, you’ll have both bases covered – an antioxidant rich oil with plenty of oleic acid.
- Circulation - In order for blood to flow properly, the blood vessels, the heart muscle and platelet function must all cooperate. If the arteries (and more specifically the endothelium) become hard and inflexible, the transport of blood, nutrients and oxygen suffers. Olive oil can support healthy circulation in a number of ways: 1) antioxidants in olive oil can prevent the unhealthy overgrowth of endothelial cells; 2) olive oil phenols protect against endothelial dysfunction caused by a harmful protein called homocysteine and; 3) components in olive oil help to prevent the “clumping” of blood platelets as well as aspirin. It’s important to note that olive oil doesn’t appear to carry aspirin’s risk of adverse effects. (5,6,7)
These recent observations indicate that extra virgin olive oil may support cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure, improving the health and function of the endothelium, decreasing the likelihood of obstruction within the arteries and combating “sticky blood”. These are but some of the scientifically established reasons to include more unrefined olive oil in your daily diet.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
Tags: Circulation, High Blood Pressure, Olive Oil
Posted in Food and Drink, Heart Health, Nutrition