Olive Oil Health Benefits—Cholesterol

Running OliveCholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells. It is normal to have cholesterol. Cholesterol is an important part of a healthy body because it is used for producing cell membranes and some hormones, and serves other needed bodily functions. But too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and for stroke.

Cholesterol comes from two sources: your body and the food you eat. Your liver and other cells in your body make about 75 percent of blood cholesterol. The other 25 percent comes from the foods you eat. Cholesterol cannot dissolve in the blood. It has to be transported to and from the cells by carriers called lipoproteins.

The three types of cholesterol are HDL (“good”), LDL (“bad”), and triglycerides. Your body needs these three cholesterols to function properly. But more importantly, balancing these cholesterols in your body and knowing how to manage them, is the challenge. Let us show you how olive oil can assist with balancing these three important cholesterols.

  1. LDL (Bad) Cholesterol
    When too much low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, it can result in a heart attack or stroke.

    LDL cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes from their mother, father, or even grandparents that cause them to make too much. Eating saturated fat, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol also increases how much you have.

    There is a genetic variation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, called Lp(a). A high level of Lp(a) is a significant risk factor for the premature development of fatty deposits in arteries. Lp(a) is not fully understood, but it may interact with substances found in artery walls and contribute to the buildup of fatty deposits.

  2. HDL (good) Cholesterol
    About one-fourth to one-third of blood cholesterol is carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL cholesterol is known as “good” cholesterol, because high levels of HDL seem to protect against heart attack. Low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg/dL) also increase the risk of heart disease. Medical experts think that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is passed from the body. Some experts believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque, slowing its buildup.

  3. Triglycerides
    Triglyceride is also a form of fat made in the body. Elevated triglycerides can be due to overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and a diet very high in carbohydrates (60 percent of total calories or more). People with high triglycerides often have a high total cholesterol level, including a high LDL (“bad”) level and a low HDL (“good”) level. Many people with heart disease and/or diabetes also have high triglyceride levels.

How Does Diet Affect It?

The daily recommended cholesterol limit is less than 300 milligrams for people with normal LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. People with high LDL blood cholesterol levels or who are taking a blood cholesterol-lowering medication should eat less than 200 mg of cholesterol per day.

Most diets today are rich in saturated fatty acids as they are mostly provided by animal fats and processed fats (e.g. margarine). These diets such as red meat, processed foods (ex. cheese), and fried foods are comprised of the ‘bad for you’ fats. These are all typically accompanied by excessive amounts of carbohydrates as well.

For example, a typical daily diet consisting of egg(s), coffee (cream and sugar), a sandwich with mayonnaise, and a 6-ounce serving of red meat would contain about 510 mg of dietary cholesterol. Believe it or not, this is nearly twice the recommended daily limit.

Continuing this daily diet will quickly result in a cholesterol imbalance and cholesterol imbalance is the precursor to coronary disease, diabetes, and obesity.

In comparison, the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 and 6 (polyunsaturated) fats, such as green vegetables, fish, and olive oil, has actually proven to balance these three cholesterol levels, thus lowering the risks of heart disease and diabetes.

What Role Can Olive Oil Play?
Olive oil can provide a strong source of mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats. Adding olive oil to your diet will contribute to an overall healthier diet while managing cholesterol levels by helping to maintain a better balance between HDL (“good”) cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Research studies have proven that diets high in saturated fats are known to raise bad LDL, while olive oil rich diets high in mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats, tend to decrease LDL levels.

Further studies have revealed that other than its high mono-unsaturated content, unprocessed (such as extra-virgin) olive oil contains non-fat components such as certain phenolic compounds that have a wide range of health benefits including positive effects on cholesterol (both “good” and “bad”) levels and LDL oxidation.