According to a new study from France, older indi­vid­u­als who con­sume olive oil daily may be able to pro­tect them­selves from a stroke.  The study which is part of the Three-​City Study, an ongo­ing mul­ti­cen­ter study of vas­cu­lar risk fac­tors for demen­tia, was pub­lished today in the online issue of Neurology, the med­ical jour­nal of the American Academy of Neurology.

For this study researchers gath­ered infor­ma­tion from the med­ical records of 7,625 indi­vid­u­als over the age of 65 from three cities in France: Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier. None of the par­tic­i­pants had a his­tory of stroke. They than cat­e­go­rized the indi­vid­u­als into three groups based on their olive oil con­sump­tion: “no use,” “mod­er­ate use” which involved using olive oil in cook­ing or as dress­ing or with bread, and “inten­sive use,” which included using olive oil for both cook­ing and as dress­ing. The researchers noted that the par­tic­i­pants used mostly extra vir­gin olive oil, as that is what is usu­ally avail­able in France.

After 5 years there were 148 strokes. The results showed that the “inten­sive” users of olive oil, those that used for both cook­ing and dress­ings had a 41 per­cent lower risk of stroke com­pared to those that did not use olive oil at all. These results were noted even after con­sid­er­ing weight, diet, phys­i­cal activ­ity and other risk fac­tors.

A stroke occurs when a blood clot devel­ops in an artery or blood ves­sel block­ing blood flow to the brain. This can cause the death of brain cells and brain dam­age. Stroke is the sec­ond lead­ing cause of death world­wide and the third largest cause of death in the United States.  According to study author Cecilia Samieri, PhD, from with the University of Bordeaux and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Bordeaux, France, the research sug­gests that a new set of dietary rec­om­men­da­tions should be used to pre­vent stroke in older indi­vid­u­als. “Stroke is so com­mon in older peo­ple and olive oil would be an inex­pen­sive and easy way to help pre­vent it,” she said.

In an accom­pa­ny­ing edi­to­r­ial, Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, of Columbia University and a mem­ber of the American Academy of Neurology noted that it is not clear which par­tic­u­lar ele­ments of olive oil could be pro­tec­tive and added that only future clin­i­cal tri­als can increase con­fi­dence in the find­ings and poten­tially lead to stroke pre­ven­tion rec­om­men­da­tions.

However, that does not mean that olive oil shouldn’t be the main source of fat in the diet. In terms of gen­eral health it is rec­om­mended that unsat­u­rated fat includ­ing monoun­sat­u­rated fats found in olive oil, should replace sat­u­rated fats in the diet as this has many health ben­e­fits such as reduc­tion of risk of heart dis­ease as well as improve­ments of blood sugar lev­els.

  • Olive oil con­sump­tion, plasma oleic acid, and stroke inci­dence: Three-​City Study

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