Does eating extra virgin olive oil mean you’ll live longer? The British Heart Foundation examine the evidence.
There are so many reasons why people choose extra virgin olive oil like Morocco Gold over other types of oils. Whether this as part of a healthy diet, for its delicious taste or extra virgin oil because of its now well-researched and documented health benefits.
New research suggests that olive oil could reduce your risk of death, including from heart disease, stroke, cancer and dementia. Although the link between olive oil and reduced risk of heart disease is well known, the researchers wanted to find out if it is linked to a reduced risk of death overall.
News stories about this research reported that olive oil can reduce the risk of fatal heart disease and other diseases. The Times carried two articles about the research, a news story and a feature which included an interview with the study author. The Mail article did explain that the results had been adjusted to take other factors into account.
The British Heart Foundation looked behind the headlines to give their own view.
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, analysed the diet of around 90,000 men and women over a 28-year period. None of them had heart or circulatory disease or cancer at the outset. Every four years they were asked how often they ate specific foods.
Researchers found those who consumed the most olive oil (more than half a tablespoon a day) were less likely to die from any cause, including heart disease or stroke, cancer, lung disease and neurodegenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia).
After adjusting for other factors, the people who ate the most olive oil had a 19 per cent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular causes such as heart disease or stroke, compared with the people who ate the least olive oil. The biggest effect was seen in neurodegenerative disease deaths (29 per cent lower risk in people who ate most olive oil). For respiratory disease the risk was 18 per cent lower and for cancer it was 17 per cent lower.
The study also found substituting 10 grams a day (just over a tablespoon) of fats such as margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil was also associated with a lower risk of death.
Although this kind of study can’t prove cause and effect, the researchers said there are potential reasons why olive oil might reduce death risk from such a range of diseases. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat and specific plant compounds, which may have a positive effect on blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as having anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties, and encouraging healthy gut bacteria.
The study’s lead author said: “Our findings support current dietary recommendations to increase the intake of olive oil and other unsaturated vegetable oils.”
A major advantage of the study was the large number of people taking part over a long period of time. They were all nurses and other health professionals in the United States.
The British Heart Foundation Verdict
We know from previous studies olive oil may have a range of health benefits, and this study supports existing recommendations for heart and circulatory health. Replacing saturated fats in your diet (like butter, lard, and ghee) with unsaturated fats like olive, sunflower or vegetable oil can help to lower cholesterol levels. Olive oil is also a well-known part of the Mediterranean diet, which is a dietary pattern associated with better heart and circulatory health.
This study is helpful to broaden our understanding of how olive oil may reduce the risk of death from other conditions, not just heart disease. However more evidence is required to say there is a direct link between the consumption of olive oil and lowered risk of dying.
As part of a healthy, balanced diet, switching from butter, ghee or lard to unsaturated fats like olive oil is an easy change whether you use it in salad dressings, to drizzle it on bread instead of using butter, or for frying and roasting.
Source: British Heart Foundation