Olive Oil Health Benefits—Heart Disease

StethiscopeMany scientific studies have indicated that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels while raising HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels. Of all naturally produced oils, olive oil has the highest percentage of mono-unsaturated fats. It is recommended that people consume 23ml - about 2 tablespoons - of virgin olive oil daily. This recommended dosage will show less oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol and higher levels of anti-oxidant compounds, particularly phenols, found in the blood. While all types of olive oil are sources of mono-unsaturated fat, extra virgin olive oil contains higher levels of anti-oxidants, particularly vitamin E and phenols, because it is less processed.

  1. Olive Oil and Heart Disease
    One of the major causes of heart disease is the thickening and hardening of the arteries. This thickening and hardening is caused by plaque formation, or Artherosclerosis. LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol is thought to be partially responsible for these changes when it oxidizes in the artery wall. Recent studies show that an anti-oxidant rich diet decreases the likelihood of getting heart disease and cancer. Olive oil contains the highest levels of anti-oxidants and should be added to your daily diet.

A recent study found that women who consumed more vitamin E were less likely to get early signs of cardiovascular disease. The study looked at ultrasound evidence of thickening in the carotid arteries, a red flag for vascular disease throughout the body. Study participants consumed most of their vitamin E from olive oil. Remember, vitamin E is a natural anti-oxidant and is present in as little as one tablespoon of olive oil. This one tablespoon would provide approximately 8% of the recommended daily consumption of vitamin E.

  1. Can Olive Oil Help Prevent Heart Attacks?
    The development of blood clots that block the coronary arteries is the basic disease process behind heart attacks. Several studies have shown that the incidence of heart disease is lower than would be expected by blood cholesterol levels. Many feel that this discrepancy can be explained by the high amount of olive oil in the diet. But what is it in olive oil that lowers heart attack risk? Researchers decided to see if it was due to olive oil affecting the blood's basic ability to form clots. Less effective clotting would mean fewer heart attacks.

    The researchers compared the effects of virgin olive oil with those of rapeseed (canola oil) and sunflower oils on blood coagulation factor VII, which is a key factor in blood clot formation. In this study eighteen healthy young men consumed diets enriched with olive oil, sunflower oil, or rapeseed oil for a period of 3 weeks. Levels of Factor VII were significantly lower in those who ate olive oil compared to sunflower or rapeseed. The study's conclusion was that olive oil may lower the procoagulant tendency of fatty meals which could explain the low incidence of heart attacks in Mediterranean countries.

  2. Olive Oil and Heart Disease? Is Any Fat Good Fat?
    There may be a difference of opinion about oils and health. What people agree on is that less fat is better and unsaturated fats are better than saturated ones. The question is, how low do you go and which oils are better than others.