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

Mar. 18, 2011
By Elena Paravantes

Recent News

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 the pro­tec­tive qual­i­ties of olive oil 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 olive oil that is rich in polyphe­nols (a type of antiox­i­dant) 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. The researchers recruited 200 healthy men and ran­domly assigned them to one of three groups to con­sume 25 mls of olive oil every day with dif­fer­ent amounts of polyphe­nols.

The olive oils that were admin­is­tered included refined olive oil, which had a low polyphe­nol con­tent, common olive oil, which had a medium polyphe­nol con­tent and virgin, which had high polyphe­nol con­tent. The results showed that the con­sump­tion of polyphe­nol rich olive oil increased the levels of an anti­body that reduces levels of oxi­dized LDL cho­les­terol (bad cho­les­terol), and is 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 as to whether real life doses of olive oil can achieve this effect and whether the par­tic­u­lar olive oil con­sumed is in fact high in polyphe­nols.

In this study the researchers had the sub­jects con­sume about 2 table­spoons of olive oil a day, a rea­son­able amount for non-Mediterranean coun­tries. Inhabitants of Mediterranean coun­tries have a much higher intake. For exam­ple Greeks who have the high­est intake of olive oil per person in the world con­sume about 70 mls a day, while Spaniards and Italians include about 35 mls a 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.