Consuming Half a Tablespoon of Olive Oil Per Day Improves Heart Health, Study Suggests

Eating more than half a tablespoon of olive oil daily could lower the risk of a heart attack by 20 percent, say researchers at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health.

Mar. 11, 2020
By Julie Al-Zoubi

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The results of a new study show­ing the ben­e­fits of olive oil for improved heart health among a U.S. pop­u­la­tion were recently pre­sented at an American Heart Association’s (AHA) Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Session.

All types of olive oil are a good source of monoun­sat­u­rated fatty acids, and the total con­sump­tion of olive oil was asso­ci­ated with a lower risk of CVD in our study.- Marta Guasch-Ferre, TH Chan School of Public Health

It was the first study to focus specif­i­cally on the U.S. pop­u­la­tion. Previous research on olive oil’s heart health ben­e­fits had been cen­tered on Mediterranean and European pop­u­la­tions.

After ana­lyz­ing thirty years of data, the research team con­cluded that eat­ing more than a half table­spoon of olive oil per day could lower the risk of a heart attack by 20 per­cent, reduce the risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease (CVD) by 15 per­cent and lower the risk of coro­nary heart dis­ease (CHD) by 21 per­cent.

See Also:Olive Oil Health News

Marta Guasch-Ferre, lead author of the study and a nutri­tional research sci­en­tist at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health told Olive Oil Times that the results came as no great sur­prise due to increas­ing evi­dence that olive oil was linked to a reduced risk of CVD.

We were expect­ing to find the ben­e­fits of olive oil con­sump­tion. However, most of the pre­vi­ous stud­ies showed these asso­ci­a­tions in Mediterranean and European pop­u­la­tions but no pre­vi­ous study has shown the asso­ci­a­tions in the U.S. pop­u­la­tion,” Guasch-Ferre said.


The study also sug­gests that other veg­etable oils may also be ben­e­fi­cial to heart health. What was inter­est­ing is that while olive oil was bet­ter than ani­mal fat not supe­rior to veg­etable oils maybe has to do with the con­sump­tion amount,” Guasch-Ferre noted.

She believes that con­sump­tion of other plant oils could become healthy alter­na­tives to ani­mal fats par­tic­u­larly for con­sumers seek­ing a more afford­able option to olive oil.

During this study, it was not pos­si­ble to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between reg­u­lar olive oil and extra vir­gin olive oil (EVOO). Although an ear­lier study also led by Guasch-Ferre con­cluded that EVOO exerted the most ben­e­fits for CVD.

While it is true that EVOO vari­eties have higher amounts of antiox­i­dants, polyphe­nols, vit­a­mins and other bioac­tive com­pounds, all types of olive oil are a good source of monoun­sat­u­rated fatty acids, and the total con­sump­tion of olive oil was asso­ci­ated with a lower risk of CVD in our study,” Guasch-Ferre explained.

She rec­om­mended the con­sump­tion of half a table­spoon of olive oil per day as a pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sure. I think that olive oil of all types is still a good option when sub­sti­tut­ing more sat­u­rated and ani­mal fats, as shown in our results.”

She cau­tioned that we also need to think in terms of what is olive oil replac­ing. Definitely, olive oil is a healthy option as a dress­ing, for cook­ing and bak­ing. Also, replac­ing 5g or 1 tea­spoon of but­ter, may­on­naise or dairy fat with the same amount of olive oil was asso­ci­ated with a 5 per­cent lower risk of CVD and 7 per­cent lower risk of CHD.”

Guasch-Ferre believes that the results sup­port increas­ing calls to replace sat­u­rated fat and ani­mal fat with unsat­u­rated plant oils such as olive oil for the pre­ven­tion of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

Although some stud­ies have sug­gested that olive oil con­sump­tion reduces the risk of strokes; this study did not. Guasch-Ferre believes the anom­aly is due to sig­nif­i­cantly higher lev­els of olive oil being con­sumed in other stud­ies or to the higher lev­els of polyphe­nols found in EVOO.

Olive oil has long been asso­ci­ated with improved heart health and was hailed as the smartest heart-healthy oil in a report by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

While this was merely an obser­va­tional study that doesn’t con­clu­sively prove cause and effect, it does sup­port grow­ing evi­dence that olive oil and some other plant-based oils can be ben­e­fi­cial to heart health.


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