Olive Oil Health Benefits—Blood Pressure

Muscle OliveHealthy blood pressure levels are an indicator of how clear the body’s arteries are. When blood pressure levels get out of balance, they can signal a potential heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure levels are often caused by the hardening of the arteries (aka atherosclerosis). This hardening occurs when oxidized particles of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol stick to the walls of the arteries. Over time, these particles build up and form plaque, narrowing the blood vessels and putting a heavier workload on the heart as it pumps oxygenated blood to the entire body.

One of the primary compounds found in olive oil that directly combats this build-up is called oleuropein. Oleuropein has been found by scientists to prevent the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and sticking to the arterial walls.

As we know, diets rich in saturated fats are associated with higher blood pressure but can unsaturated fats lower blood pressure? And are some unsaturated fats better than others?

According to some recent studies, the answer is yes. One study in which 23 subjects were fed a diet rich either in monounsaturated fatty acids (olive oil) or polyunsaturated fatty acids (for example, sunflower oil) for one year.

The result of the study demonstrated a reduction in blood pressure medication consumption when patients were given olive oil, whereas drug consumption was only mildly affected by the polyunsaturated diet.

The need for common blood pressure drugs was cut in half after just 4 months on the olive oil diet whereas drug consumption was only mildly affected by the polyunsaturated diet. Cholesterol and triglyceride levels were also slightly lower while on the olive oil diet. There are as many as 5 mg of antioxidant polyphenols (absent in polyunsaturated fats) in every 10 grams of olive oil. Polyphenols have been shown to reduce coronary artery disease and may be the substance in lowering blood pressure.

Also, the antioxidants in olive oil reduce nitric acid levels, a substance in the body known to raise blood pressure.