Plenty of Olive Oil Might Help Prevent Strokes, Researchers Find

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According to a new study from France, older individuals who consume olive oil daily may be able to protect themselves from a stroke.  The study which is part of the Three-City Study, an ongoing multicenter study of vascular risk factors for dementia, was published today in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

For this study researchers gathered information from the medical records of 7,625 individuals over the age of 65 from three cities in France: Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier. None of the participants had a history of stroke. They than categorized the individuals into three groups based on their olive oil consumption: “no use,” “moderate use” which involved using olive oil in cooking or as dressing or with bread, and “intensive use,” which included using olive oil for both cooking and as dressing. The researchers noted that the participants used mostly extra virgin olive oil, as that is what is usually available in France.

After 5 years there were 148 strokes. The results showed that the “intensive” users of olive oil, those that used for both cooking and dressings had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those that did not use olive oil at all. These results were noted even after considering weight, diet, physical activity and other risk factors.

A stroke occurs when a blood clot develops in an artery or blood vessel blocking blood flow to the brain. This can cause the death of brain cells and brain damage. Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide and the third largest cause of death in the United States.  According to study author Cecilia Samieri, PhD, from with the University of Bordeaux and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Bordeaux, France, the research suggests that a new set of dietary recommendations should be used to prevent stroke in older individuals. “Stroke is so common in older people and olive oil would be an inexpensive and easy way to help prevent it,” she said.

In an accompanying editorial, Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, of Columbia University and a member of the American Academy of Neurology noted that it is not clear which particular elements of olive oil could be protective and added that only future clinical trials can increase confidence in the findings and potentially lead to stroke prevention recommendations.

However, that does not mean that olive oil shouldn’t be the main source of fat in the diet. In terms of general health it is recommended that unsaturated fat including monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, should replace saturated fats in the diet as this has many health benefits such as reduction of risk of heart disease as well as improvements of blood sugar levels.

Olive oil consumption, plasma oleic acid, and stroke incidence: the Three-City Study. Neurology 2011;77
Olive oil. Pertinent to neurologic diseases too? Neurology 2011;77


This article was last updated October 15, 2014 - 8:11 AM (GMT-5)

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