Two Tablespoons of High Quality Olive Oil Every Day Help Protect the Heart

Even modest daily doses of extra virgin olive oil may protect from atherosclerosis by reducing bad cholesterol.
By Elena Paravantes
Mar. 18, 2011 10:36 UTC

Olive oil is known as one of the best sources of monoun­sat­u­rated fatty acids, a type of fat that has been shown to improve blood cho­les­terol lev­els. It was thought that olive oil’s pro­tec­tive qual­i­ties were due mainly to the pres­ence of this type of fat. However, new research shows that its antiox­i­dant con­tent is equally impor­tant.

According to new data pub­lished in Clinical Nutrition, daily doses of extra vir­gin olive oil may pro­tect from ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis (hard­en­ing of the arter­ies).

The results came from the EurOlive Study, which involved researchers from uni­ver­si­ties in five European coun­tries, and was aimed at assess­ing the ben­e­fi­cial effects of olive oil on human health.

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The researchers recruited 200 healthy men and ran­domly assigned them to one of three groups to con­sume 25 ml of olive oil every day with dif­fer­ent polyphe­nols lev­els.

The olive oils that were admin­is­tered included refined olive oil, which had a low polyphe­nol con­tent; com­mon olive oil with medium polyphe­nol con­tent and extra vir­gin, which had high phe­no­lic lev­els.

The results showed that the con­sump­tion of extra vir­gin olive oil increased the anti­body lev­els that reduce oxi­dized LDL cho­les­terol (bad cho­les­terol con­sid­ered a risk fac­tor of artery hard­en­ing and heart dis­ease).

This was not the first time that olive oil polyphe­nols have been found to have a pro­tec­tive effect against oxida­tive dam­age; pre­vi­ous stud­ies have also shown a pos­i­tive effect. However, there were ques­tions about whether real-life doses of olive oil can achieve this effect.

In this study the researchers had the sub­jects con­sume about 2 table­spoons of olive oil a day, a rea­son­able amount for non-Mediterranean coun­tries.

Greeks who have the high­est intake of olive oil per per­son in the world con­sume about 70 ml per day, while Spaniards and Italians include about 35 ml daily. The aver­age American con­sumes less than three mil­li­liters per day.

The other issue is the polyphe­nol con­tent. Studies have shown that extra vir­gin olive oil has more polyphe­nols than other olive oils that are processed.

Storage con­di­tions also play an impor­tant role. Oil that is stored in a dark, cool spot in a dark con­tainer retains more of its antiox­i­dants. Long stor­age times reduce the antiox­i­dant con­tent as well; the longer olive oil sits in a bot­tle unused, the more polyphe­nols it loses.


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