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Olive Oil and Heart Health

June 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!

Be well!


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Posted in Food and Drink, Heart Health, Nutrition

18 Comments & Updates to “Olive Oil and Heart Health”

  1. Robin Thomas Says:

    I like seeing the references to continued research in the role of olives and olive oil for cardiovascular health. Whether it is the polyphenols or the oleic acid in extra virgin olive oil, it is beneficial to incorporate more olive oil in our diets.

    Another way to add the benefits of the polyphenols is with a product known as Olivol. USANA Health Sciences patented a process to recover olive phenols from the by-products of olive oil production. Olivol contains polyphenols derived exclusively from the fruit of the olive. The polyphenolic antioxidants found in olives are not present in other common dietary sources. Usana incorporates Olivol into a number of their supplements and foods.

    More information about Olivol can be found here:http://tinyurl.com/pwxzyw

    I was wondering if you had heard of this extraction process?

    To your Health,

  2. JP Says:

    Good day, Robin.

    I’ve heard/read of similar extraction techniques. I have little doubt that such extracts impart health benefits. Olives truly are a wonderful source of nutrition and phytochemicals. I also like the fact that they’re making the most of an otherwise wasted resource.

    The vitamin C product I’m currently using contains an olive fruit extract made by Indena, I believe. I’ve also used a fish oil supplement that contains a different olive fruit extract (by the Life Extension Foundation).

    Even with those supplements, I still like to use organic, extra virgin olive oil regularly and organic olives as well. The more the better! 🙂

    Be well!


  3. Glenn Fernandes Says:

    Thanks a lot for the useful information. I had no idea about the benefits of olive oil. Olive oil is very good for health. I will surely have olive oil in my daily food.

  4. Chris Says:

    Great post, great blog.

    Any ideas how much olive “oil” there is in raw whole olives?


  5. JP Says:

    You’re welcome, Glenn.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:


    According to one reliable source (linked below), one cup of olives contains approximately 1 tablespoon worth of olive oil.


    Be well!


  7. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    Here is one caution on olive oil…..don’t use it unless with other healthy anti-oxidant food. The west coast custom of snacking on bread dipped in olive oil may not be healthy.

    “The arteries didn’t constrict much after the salmon meal. After the meal containing canola oil, they constricted slightly, reducing blood flow by 11%. After the olive oil and bread combination, however, blood flow plummeted 34% — exactly the effect that Vogel had seen in previous research after volunteers ate a Big Mac with fries.

    Vogel’s own research, in fact, has shown that when olive oil is combined with foods rich in antioxidants, such as vegetables, the vessel-constricting effect disappears. All you have to do is combine olive oil with red wine vinegar, which is loaded with the same antioxidants found in wine, and it appears you can prevent the deleterious effect on blood vessels.”

    I was surprised that the much maligned canola oil outperformed olive oil in this study.

  8. JP Says:


    Subsequent research doesn’t seem to support those study results. But, just to be on the safe side, I would try to choose polyphenol-rich extra virgin olive. I’m all for avoiding bread and eating antioxidant rich foods at all meals. Hopefully, that’s got me covered. 🙂

    A brief search offers hope for that possibility:




    Be well!


  9. Chris Says:

    Thanks for the link JP.

    Oh and my fav use for olive oil, honey mustard dressing. One serving…

    1tsp Wholegrain Mustard
    1stp Dijon Mustard
    1tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
    1-2tsp Honey
    Pinch of sea salt and a little black pepper

    Then pour in the extra virgin olive oil until the consistancy is right, about 4 tsp at a guess.


  10. JP Says:

    Looks like a tasty mix, Chris. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Be well!


  11. Cyndi D'Auria Says:

    I am very surprised to read about bread dipped in olive oil…
    Whole foods always has two different kinds of Olive oil and smal pieces of crusty bread…
    I try my olive oil out that way…which one should I choose etc…
    otherwise I use olive oil in my salads, veggies and sometimes I just take a tablespoon of it on a spoon…
    It is healthy right?

  12. JP Says:


    I think that unrefined (extra virgin) olive oil is quite healthy. Eating olives falls under the same category. It’s one of the few oils we use for cooking and dressing foods.

    Be well!


  13. JP Says:

    Update 04/20/15:


    BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015, 15:52

    Can red yeast rice and olive extract improve lipid profile and cardiovascular risk in metabolic syndrome?: A double blind, placebo controlled randomized trial

    Background: Metabolic syndrome (MetS) comprises a spectrum of clinical phenotypes in which dyslipidemia, dysglycemia and hypertension are clustered and where all share a high level of oxidative stress and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This study examines the effect of a nutritional supplement combining red yeast rice and olive fruit extract on the lipid profile and on oxidative stress in a population of patients with MetS.

    Methods: In a double blind placebo controlled randomized trial, 50 persons with MetS, as defined by the ATPIII criteria, received the study product or placebo for 8 weeks. The study product contained 10.82 mg of monacolins and 9,32 mg of hydroxytyrosol per capsule, and is commercialized as Cholesfytol plus. The primary outcome measure was the difference in LDL reduction between intervention and control groups. Furthermore, differences in changes of CH, HDL, ApoA1, ApoB, HbA1c and oxLDL were measured, as well as side-effects, CK elevation, changes in clinical parameters and in cardiovascular risk.

    Results: In the intervention group, LDL cholesterol was lowered by 24% whereas it increased by 1% in the control group (p < 0.001). Other effects observed were a change in total cholesterol (−17% in the intervention group vs +2% in the control group, p < 0.001), apolipoprotein B (−15% vs +6%, p < 0.001), and TG (−9% vs + 16%, p = 0.02). Oxidized LDL decreased by 20% vs an increase of 5% in the control group (p < 0.001). Systolic and diastolic arterial blood pressure decreased significantly by 10 mmHg (vs 0% in the control group, p = 0.001) and 7 mmHg (vs 0% in the control group, p = 0.05) respectively. One person in the intervention group, who suffered from Segawa’s syndrome, dropped out because of severe muscle ache. Conclusions: The combination of active products in this study may be an alternative approach to statins in people who do not need, or cannot or do not want to be treated with chemical statins. Side effects, effects on oxidative stress and on glucose metabolism need to be examined more thoroughly. Be well! JP

  14. JP Says:

    Update 05/19/15:


    Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Apr 28;16(5):9588-99.

    Carotenoid profile of tomato sauces: effect of cooking time and content of extra virgin olive oil.

    The consumption of carotenoid-rich vegetables such as tomatoes and tomato sauces is associated with reduced risk of several chronic diseases. The predominant carotenoids in tomato products are in the (all-E) configuration, but (Z) isomers can be formed during thermal processing. The effect of cooking time (15, 30, 45 and 60 min) and the addition of extra virgin olive oil (5% and 10%) on the carotenoid extractability of tomato sauces was monitored using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS) and LC-ultraviolet detection (LC-UV). The thermal treatment and the addition of extra virgin olive oil increased the levels of antioxidant activity, total carotenoids, Z-lycopene isomers, α-carotene and β-carotene. These results are of particular nutritional benefit since higher lycopene intake has been associated with a reduced risk of lethal prostate and a reduction of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. Moreover, β-carotene has been reported to suppress the up-regulation of heme oxygenase-1 gene expression in a dose dependent manner and to suppress UVA-induced HO-1 gene expression in cultured FEK4.

    Be well!


  15. JP Says:

    Update 06/06/15:


    J Diabetes Metab Disord. 2015 Apr 29;14:38.

    The effect of topical olive oil on the healing of foot ulcer in patients with type 2 diabetes: a double-blind randomized clinical trial study in Iran.

    BACKGROUND: Diabetic Foot Ulcer (DFU) is the most costly and devastating complication of diabetes mellitus which can lead to infection, gangrene, amputation, and even death if the necessary care is not provided. Nowadays, some herbal products have shown therapeutic effects on healing of DFU. So, this study aimed to assess the effects of topical olive oil on the healing of DFU.

    METHODS: This double-blind randomized clinical trial study was conducted in Diabetes Clinic of Ahvaz Golestan hospital, Iran, in 2014. Thirty-four patients with DFU of Wagner’s ulcer grade 1 or 2 were enrolled in this study. Patients who were randomly assigned to intervention group (n = 17) received topical olive oil in addition to routine cares, whereas patients in control group (n = 17) just received routine cares. Intervention was done once a day for 4 weeks in both groups, and in the end of each week; the ulcers were assessed and scored. Data was collected by demographic and clinical characteristics checklists as well as diabetic foot ulcer healing checklist, and was analyzed by SPSS version 19 software using descriptive (mean and standard deviation) and analytic (student’s sample t-test, chi-square and repeated-measures analysis of variance) statistics.

    RESULTS: At the end of 4(th) week, there was a significant differences between two groups regarding to 3 parameters of ulcer including degree (P = 0.03), color (P = 0.04) and surrounding tissues (P < 0.001) as well as total status of ulcer (P = 0.001), while related to ulcer drainages no significant difference was seen between the two groups (P = 0.072). At the end of the follow up, olive oil significantly decreased ulcer area (P = 0.01) and depth (P = 0.02) compared with control group. Complete ulcer healing in the intervention group was significantly greater than control group (73.3% vs. 13.3%, P = 0.003) at the end of follow up. Also, there were no adverse effects to report during the study in intervention group. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicated that olive oil in combination with routine cares is more effective than routine cares alone, and is without any side effect. However, further studies are required in the future to confirm these results. Be well! JP

  16. JP Says:

    Updated 08/06/15:


    Public Health Nutr. 2015 Jul 30:1-7.

    Exclusive olive oil consumption has a protective effect on coronary artery disease; overview of the THISEAS study.

    OBJECTIVE: The aims of the current report are to present the demographic characteristics, clinical characteristics/biochemical indices and lifestyle habits of the population and to explore the potential association of exclusive olive oil consumption, in relation to lifestyle factors, with coronary artery disease risk.

    DESIGN: Demographic, lifestyle, dietary and biochemical variables were recorded. Logistic regression analysis was performed in order to estimate the relative risks of developing coronary artery disease.

    SETTING: The Hellenic study of Interactions between Single nucleotide polymorphisms and Eating in Atherosclerosis Susceptibility (THISEAS), a medical centre-based case-control study conducted in Greek adults.

    SUBJECTS: We consecutively enrolled 1221 adult patients with coronary artery disease and 1344 adult controls.

    RESULTS: A higher prevalence of the conventional established risk factors was observed in cases than in controls. Physical activity level was higher in controls (1·4 (sd 0·2) than in cases (1·3 (sd 0·3); P<0·001). Regarding current and ex-smokers, the case group reported almost double the pack-years of the control group (54·6 (sd 42·8) v. 28·3 (sd 26·3), respectively; P<0·001). Exclusive olive oil consumption was associated with 37 % lower likelihood of developing coronary artery disease, even after taking into account adherence to the Mediterranean diet (OR=0·63; 95 % CI 0·42, 0·93; P=0·02).

    CONCLUSIONS: Exclusive olive oil consumption was associated with lower risk of coronary artery disease, even after adjusting for adoption of an overall healthy dietary pattern such as the Mediterranean diet.

    Be well!


  17. JP Says:

    Updated 04/08/16:


    Immun Ageing. 2016 Apr 5;13:11.

    Nutraceutical effects of table green olives: a pilot study with Nocellara del Belice olives.

    BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to analyse the nutraceutical properties of table green olives Nocellara del Belice, a traditional Mediterranean food. The Mediterranean Diet has as key elements olives and extra virgin olive oil, common to all Mediterranean countries. Olive oil is the main source of fat and can modulate oxidative stress and inflammation, whereas little is known about the role of olives. Moreover, emerging evidences underline the association between gut microbiota and food as the basis of many phenomena that affect health and delay or avoid the onset of some age-related chronic diseases.

    METHODS: In order to show if table green olives have nutraceutical properties and/or probiotic effect, we performed a nutritional intervention, administering to 25 healthy subjects (mean age 38,3), 12 table green olives/day for 30 days. We carried out anthropometric, biochemical, oxidative stress and cytokines analyses at the beginning of the study and at the end. Moreover, we also collected fecal samples to investigate about the possible variation of concentration of Lactobacilli, after the olives consumption.

    RESULT: Our results showed a significant variation of one molecule related to oxidative stress, malondialdehyde, confirming that Nocellara del Belice green olives could have an anti-oxidant effect. In addition, the level of interleukin-6 decreased significantly, demonstrating how this food could be able to modulate the inflammatory response. Moreover, it is noteworthy the reduction of fat mass with an increase of muscle mass, suggesting a possible effect on long time assumption of table olives on body mass variation. No statistically significant differences were observed in the amount of Lactobacilli, although a trend towards an increased concentration of them at the end of the intervention could be related to the nutraceutical effects of olives.

    CONCLUSION: These preliminary results suggest a possible nutraceutical effect of daily consumption of green table olives Nocellara del Belice. To best of our knowledge, this is the first study performed to assess nutraceutical properties of this food. Of course, it is necessary to verify the data in a larger sample of individuals to confirm their role as nutraceuticals.

    Be well!


  18. JP Says:

    Updated 06/13/16:


    Clin Nutr. 2016 May 28.

    Extra virgin olive oil improves post-prandial glycemic and lipid profile in patients with impaired fasting glucose.

    BACKGROUND & AIMS: Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) improves post-prandial glycaemia in healthy subjects but it has never been investigated if this can be detected in pre-diabetic patients. We investigated if EVOO affects post-prandial glucose and lipid profile in patients with impaired fasting glucose (IFG).

    METHODS: Thirty IFG patients were randomly allocated to a meal containing or not 10 g of EVOO in a cross-over design. Before, 60 min and 120 min after lunch a blood sample was taken to measure glucose, insulin, Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP1), dipeptidyl-peptidase-4 (DPP4) activity, triglycerides (TG), total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol and Apo B-48.

    RESULTS: The meal containing EVOO was associated with a reduction of glucose (p = 0.009) and DPP4 activity (p < 0.001) and a significant increase of insulin (p < 0.001) and GLP-1 (p < 0.001) compared with the meal without EVOO. Furthermore, the meal containing EVOO showed a significant decrease of triglycerides (p = 0.002) and Apo B-48 (p = 0.002) compared with the meal without EVOO. Total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels did not significantly change between the two groups. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to show that in IFG patients EVOO improves post-prandial glucose and lipid profile with a mechanism probably related to incretin up-regulation. Be well! JP

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