New research found eating olive oil at least once a week was associated with lower platelet activity in obese adults.
Since platelets are involved in blood clot formation, this effect could reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Olive oil is a vital part of the Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to cardiovascular benefits.
Our study suggests that choosing to eat olive oil may have the potential to help modify that risk, potentially lowering an obese person's threat of having a heart attack or stroke.
Platelets are fragments of blood cells that bind together when activated. When a blood vessel suffers harm, platelets rush to the damaged site to form a plug; however, this beneficial process can become a threat to health.
Platelets also contribute to the formation of artery-clogging plaque, called atherosclerosis, which underlies the majority of heart attacks and strokes, Sean P. Heffron, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor at New York University’s School of Medicine, explained.
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The participants in the study were 63 obese nonsmoking adults with an average age of 32 and an average body mass index (BMI) of 41. Anyone with a BMI of more than 30 is considered obese.
Heffron and his colleagues used food frequency questionnaires to determine how often the individuals consumed olive oil.
Analysis showed that participants who ate olive oil at least once a week had less platelet activation than those who ate it less frequently. In addition, those who consumed olive oil most often had the least level of platelet accumulation.
The research team believes that aside from the plentiful amount of antioxidants in olive oil, the anti-platelet action has something to do with the structure of its molecules.
“People who are obese are at increased risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event, even if they don’t have diabetes or other obesity-associated conditions,” Heffron said. “Our study suggests that choosing to eat olive oil may have the potential to help modify that risk, potentially lowering an obese person’s threat of having a heart attack or stroke.”
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to assess the effects of dietary composition, olive oil specifically, on platelet function in obese patients,” coauthor Ruina Zhang, a NYU medical student, added.
The study had several limitations. It relied on self-reporting of olive oil consumption, and it didn’t include information on the quantity consumed.
Moreover, because the investigation was observational, it showed a link rather than a cause-effect relationship. Results were recently presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2019.
In addition to platelet activation, other factors influence cardiovascular health, one of which is inflammation. Physician Nikola Djordjevic, founder and project manager of MedAlertHelp.org…, told Olive Oil Times how a component of olive oil helps remediate this condition.
“One of the best properties of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that makes up three-fourths of olive oil, is that it reduces inflammation,” she said. “This, in turn, is beneficial for the health of your arteries, as long-term inflammation can cause damage that leads to atherosclerosis. Thus, olive oil can play a major role in preventing heart disease and stroke.”