It’s a fact that people who include a half tablespoon of olive oil in their daily diet experience a 14% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. This is according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health, which was published on January 18th, 2022, in the American Journal of Cardiology.
The study analyzed data from 31,801 men and 60,582 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Both of those are long-term health studies that track the health of participants over time. Participants in the study did not have heart disease or cancer at the start of the study in 1990. They weighed in every four years during a 28-year follow-up period about diets.
The researchers noted how much olive oil each participant consumed, in addition to butter, margarine, and other vegetable oils. Over the course of the study, people consumed more olive oil, increasing their intake from 1.6 grams a day in 1990 to roughly 4 grams per day in 2010. Interestingly enough, margarine consumption decreased from 12 grams a day in 1990 to 4 grams a day in 2010. It’s important to note that 36,856 people died during the study period. The researchers observed that participants who consumed the most olive oil per day had a 19% lower risk of dying from cancer, an 18% lower risk of dying from respiratory illness, and a 29% lower risk of dying from neurodegenerative diseases.
Olive Oil And Your Health
Olive oil contains several types of beneficial fatty acids, most of which are monounsaturated fats. These have to potential to assist in reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol. Reducing LDL levels can help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Olive oil does contain more calories than other types of oils, amounting to about 120 calories per tablespoon. Because it has healthy fats, however, it’s better to consume olive oil than less healthy oils or butter.
Is olive oil the sole reason that some people had a reduced risk of certain health conditions during the study? This is not the case because it’s difficult to determine lifestyle habits and other factors, which researchers only observe in a randomized controlled trial. Genetics, physical activity, smoking, and dietary habits all factor into the equation. Therefore, it’s tough to ignore the other factors that may have contributed to the results.
What the researchers do know is that increasing the intake of monounsaturated fats helps to decrease the intake of polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans fats. The average American adult consumes more polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans fats, all of which have adverse health effects, than they do monounsaturated fats.
Olive Oil Consumption And Alzheimer’s
In a separate study, researchers found that higher olive oil intake was linked to a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is a serious neurodegenerative condition that commonly leads to dementia. The unfortunate reality is that preventative studies that detail strategies to combat Alzheimer’s disease are lacking. That’s why the morbidity and mortality rates are higher for Alzheimer’s. Learning that olive oil may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disease is a great step in the right direction.
Is Olive Oil The Answer?
Although olive oil may exhibit beneficial health properties, it is not a cure-all food that automatically lowers the risk of certain health conditions. It does contain healthy fatty acids, but how much should you consume to experience the benefits? More research is necessary to determine this. The primary takeaway from the study should be that it’s better to consume foods that are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, as opposed to foods that contain trans and saturated fats. Additionally, reducing the consumption of processed foods is highly advised. Focus on avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters, olive oil (especially extra virgin olive oil), and other nutritionally dense foods to experience better health.