` Olive Oil Improves Blood Lipid Profile, Reduces Risk of Heart Disease


Olive Oil Improves Blood Lipid Profile, Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

Mar. 31, 2015
By Sukhsatej Batra

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Olive Oil as Med­i­cine: the Effect on Lipids and Lipopro­teins’, the first report in a series released this month by the UC Davis Olive Cen­ter, makes three key find­ings on the use of extra vir­gin olive oil to pre­vent chronic dis­eases.

  • Daily intake of two table­spoons of extra vir­gin olive oil improves blood lipid pro­file, which may reduce risk of heart dis­ease.
  • To attain the health ben­e­fits of extra vir­gin olive oil, select EVOOs that are rich in phe­nols.
  • Although food labels do not list EVOO phe­nol con­tent and qual­ity, choose high-qual­ity EVOOs that are pack­aged in dark con­tain­ers with a har­vest date clos­est to the most recent sea­son.

Authors of the report, researchers Mary Flynn and Selina Wang, reviewed data from human stud­ies car­ried out from Jan­u­ary 1998 to Decem­ber 2014 to deter­mine if extra vir­gin olive oil intake affected cir­cu­lat­ing lev­els of low-den­sity lipopro­teins (LDL), very low-den­sity lipopro­teins (VLDL), and high-den­sity lipopro­teins (HDL).
See more: UC Davis Report: Olive Oil as Med­i­cine
Unable to dis­solve in the blood, cho­les­terol trav­els through the blood­stream bound to pro­tein car­ri­ers called lipopro­teins, which may be LDL, HDL and VLDL based on the amount of lipids they con­tain. LDL con­tains high amounts of cho­les­terol, which it deliv­ers to the cells in the body. Although essen­tial for nor­mal func­tion­ing of the cells, at high con­cen­tra­tions low-den­sity lipopro­teins may deposit in the arter­ies, decrease blood flow to the heart and increase the risk of a heart attack. Main­tain­ing healthy LDL lev­els is, there­fore, essen­tial to main­tain­ing heart health.

The Seven Coun­tries Study on rates of heart dis­ease pub­lished in 1970 was the first to high­light the lower inci­dence of heart dis­eases in coun­tries where olive oil, as part of the Mediter­ranean diet, reduced risk of heart dis­ease.

In the new report, the authors found strong evi­dence of the ben­e­fits of EVOO in reduc­ing blood cho­les­terol lev­els. Based on their review, they sug­gest that an intake of 1.5 table­spoons or 20 grams of EVOO every day for at least six weeks could be effec­tive in low­er­ing LDL lev­els by at least 10 per­cent. Use of high-qual­ity olive oil with lev­els of total phe­nols of more than 300 mg/kg could be even more effec­tive in low­er­ing LDL lev­els in a shorter time.

Stud­ies show that another pos­i­tive effect of EVOO is its role in reduc­ing oxi­da­tion of LDL. Oxi­dized LDL, believed to be more dam­ag­ing to the arte­r­ial wall than native LDL cho­les­terol, causes tis­sue injury and pro­motes the devel­op­ment of ath­er­o­scle­rotic lesions. Intake of 25 ml of high-qual­ity EVOO, which has a phe­nol con­tent of more than 400 mg/kg may reduce LDL oxi­da­tion in as lit­tle as four days. How­ever, EVOO with total phe­nol con­tent of 150 mg/kg may decrease LDL oxi­da­tion in less than four weeks.


While high lev­els of LDL are dele­te­ri­ous to health, high lev­els of HDL are actu­ally ben­e­fi­cial to heart health as these lipopro­teins remove LDL cho­les­terol from the arter­ies. The report found that about two table­spoons of EVOO may increase HDL lev­els in just four days. EVOO with higher phe­nol con­tent could pos­si­bly be more effec­tive in rais­ing HDL lev­els than those with lower phe­nol con­tent.

The report also found evi­dence that EVOO intake as part of a meal could improve VLDL or fast­ing triglyc­eride lev­els.

All the lit­er­a­ture reviewed for the report leads to the con­clu­sion that EVOO with a high phe­nol con­tent improves lipid pro­file and reduces the risk of heart dis­ease. A major draw­back is lack of infor­ma­tion on phe­no­lic con­tent of EVOO on food labels, which varies with vari­ety of olives, as well as the soil, irri­ga­tion, cli­mate, ripeness, and extrac­tion meth­ods used to extract the oil.

A 2010 UC Davis study found that phe­nol con­tent of com­mer­cially avail­able olive oil may range from as lit­tle as 80 mg/kg to as high as 450 mg/kg, and phe­no­lic con­tent dimin­ishes with time. To ensure that you have the best EVOO, the authors of the report rec­om­mend buy­ing extra vir­gin olive oil that has the most recent har­vest date and is in a con­tainer that pro­tects it from light.

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