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

A new study published in Clinical Nutrition shows daily doses of olive oil rich in polyphenols may protect from atherosclerosis by reducing bad cholesterol.
Mar. 18, 2011
Elena Paravantes

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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 ml 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 ml 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.


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