Olive oil and its effects on cardiovascular (heart) disease

By Terriann

According to World Health Report, 16.7 million deaths were caused by cardiovascular disease in 2003. Cardiovascular disease, also called heart disease, is a compilation of various conditions or diseases that can affect the heart. It continues to be the leading cause of death of both men and women in the United States and in most of the world. Many of these deaths could have been avoided by choosing to make lifestyle changes including a healthier diet. Several recent studies have been conducted that suggest that extra virgin olive oil, the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, is especially healthy for your heart in numerous ways.

Olive oil has been shown to provide many health benefits that can be contributed to the high content of both monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidative substances. Research has shown that olive oil offers some defense against cardiovascular disease by lowering harmful LDL cholesterol levels while elevating beneficial HDL levels. You may have noticed the label on your last purchase of olive oil states: Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about two tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.

When olive oil was added daily for a week, it has shown to result in lower oxidation of LDL cholesterol and advanced levels of antioxidant compounds, predominantly polyphenols, in the blood.

All types of olive oil contain monounsaturated fat, but because extra virgin olive oil is made from the first pressing of the olives and is the least processed, it contains the highest levels of antioxidants, primarily vitamin E and phenols.
In one study, Dr Juan Ruano and colleagues from Mount Sinai School of Medicine compared the effect of consuming phenol-rich olive oil against olive oil with the majority of its phenol content removed. It was tested on 21 volunteers that had high cholesterol which is a known risk factor for heart disease. The first several hours after a meal containing high-phenol olive oil, blood vessel response and function showed improvement. In contrast, no improvement was evident after the low-phenol oil meal.

Co-researcher Dr Francisco Perez Jimenez, of the Hospital Universitario Reina Sofia in Cordoba, said: “This is the first study that shows a direct benefit of an olive oil with high content in phenolic compounds on endothelial function in vivo…Virgin olive oil is more than fat because it is a real juice with other healthy micronutrients.” Brigid McKevith, senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, stated: “It’s an interesting study as it may help explain some of the benefits associated with olive oil other than its effect on blood cholesterol levels.”

    Try these great ideas for including more olive oil in your daily diet:

  • Drizzle olive oil on your favorite salad as dressing
  • Immerse bits of whole grain bread in a bowl of olive oil infused with pepper and oregano or other spices
  • Lightly spritz olive oil over vegetables in place of butter
  • Prepare pesto and serve over the pasta of your choice
  • Make your own cranberry vinaigrette for greens
  • Create fabulous custom oils by infusing them with rosemary or other favorite dried herbs

I hope you enjoyed this article and as always STAY HEALTHY!