Regular consumption of olive oil can improve heart health even in those who don’t follow a Mediterranean diet, according to a new European study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on November 19, 2014.
A pan-European team of researchers from the University of Glasgow (Scotland), University of Lisbon (Portugal), Instituto de Biologia Experimental Tecnologica, Oeiras (Portugal) and private firm Mosaiques Diagnostics (Germany) examined the effects of phenols, which are natural compounds produced by plants and found in olives, on the heart health of 69 volunteers as part of the study.
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The volunteers, who were in good health and not regular consumers of olive oil, were divided into two groups and given 20ml (0.67 US Oz) of olive oil either high, or low, in phenols every day for a period of six weeks.
Using a new diagnostic technology, the team examined the impact of olive oil consumption on the volunteers’ health by checking urine samples for a range of peptides (naturally occurring biological molecules which form chains of amino acids when proteins are broken down) which are indicators of various diseases, like diabetes, kidney disease and coronary artery disease (CAD).
Using a scoring system developed by Mosaiques Diagnostics which measures the propensity for coronary artery disease (CAD) as a score of 1, to a score of ‑1 for a healthy artery, the results of the study revealed that both groups had marked improvements with dropping scores.
Commenting on the results of the study, one of the authors, Dr. Emilie Combet of the University of Glasgow, stated: “What we found was that regardless of the phenolic content of the oil, there was a positive effect on CAD scores. In the population studied, any olive oil, low or high in phenolics, seems to be beneficial. The fatty acids are probably the main contributors to the observed effect.”
Another author of the study, Dr. Bill Mullen of the University of Glasgow, pointed to the advantages of the research technique used: “If we are able to identify the early signatures of diseases before they have had a chance to take hold we can start to treat them before they become a problem requiring costly medical intervention.” Mullen added: “It is the first time this technique has been applied from a nutritional perspective to try to get to the bottom of which food or what ingredient is truly responsible for health benefits.”
The results of this study confirm once again that phenolic compounds found in plant foods, including olive oil, can provide cardiovascular health benefits and reduce the risk of heart disease.