The Mediterranean diet is well-known for including olive oil, which is also frequently praised for its heart and brain health advantages. In a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers examined the relationship between consumption of olive oil and death rates from several chronic conditions and discovered that olive oil was highly advantageous. According to a study, consuming more olive oil is linked to lower mortality rates.
"Extra virgin olive oil has been associated with numerous health benefits including protection from various chronic diseases," says Elena Paravantes, RDN, a registered dietitian and author of "The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Beginners."
More olive oil in the diet was linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to earlier studies. Olive oil can reduce oxidative stress, improve cholesterol, and lower blood pressure in addition to its anti-inflammatory properties.
In the United States, where people consume less olive oil than in Mediterranean nations, this new prospective study is the first to examine the relationship between consumption of olive oil and mortality. The researchers used data from the Nurses Health Study (NHS), which contains details on dietary intake and other lifestyle factors. In this study, information from 31,801 men and 60,582 women who participated in food frequency questionnaires were analyzed. The inquiries concerning dietary fat gathered information on how frequently and how much was consumed, as well as the brands that were applied both in the kitchen and at the table (like salad dressing or pairing with bread).
The frequency of olive oil use was categorized for the study, and the death rates and reasons of death were compared during a 28-year period. More specifically, those who never or infrequently consumed olive oil compared to those who consumed more than 0.5 teaspoons per day had a 19 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and a 17 percent lower risk of cancer mortality. The researchers discovered that those who consumed the most olive oil (more than 0.5 teaspoons per day) had a lower risk of all-cause mortality. Additionally, they had an 18% lower risk of respiratory disease death and a 29% lower risk of mortality from neurological diseases.
"Olive oil contains a healthy monounsaturated fat called oleic acid that may protect the heart, as well as vitamins E and K," says Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, a registered dietitian with Wellness Verge. "Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, and vitamin K plays a role in proper blood clotting and heart health."
According to Paravantes, it also includes polyphenols, which increase the anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and antioxidant benefits. Additionally, she makes the observation that only extra virgin olive oil includes a sizable amount of phenolic compounds and suggests utilizing it rather than refined or light olive oil.
In order to determine whether there was any difference in health hazards when margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and other dairy fats were substituted with olive oil, the researchers also employed statistical replacement models. They discovered that substituting 2 teaspoons of olive oil for 2 teaspoons each of margarine, butter, or mayonnaise each day resulted in a 34 percent lower risk of overall and cause-specific mortality.
"We know that good fats and antioxidants in the olive oil provide a multitude of benefits compared to saturated fats in butter," says Paravantes. "There is a place for butter in certain circumstances, but most cooking should be with extra virgin olive oil."
Additionally, the researchers state that their findings are consistent with the current dietary advice to swap out animal fats for unsaturated plant oils like olive oil. Olive oil is healthy, but it's important not to use too much of it.
"There also is a misconception that the smoke point of olive oil is too low to cook with," says Paravantes. "Extra virgin olive oil has an average smoke point of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. When you sauté or fry something at home on a stovetop, you will not be exceeding 375 degrees Fahrenheit, so you will not surpass the smoke point."
According to Mitri, the majority of the fats in olive oil are monounsaturated, which have a high smoke point and are stable in high heat.
"Other vegetable oils such as soybean or canola oil are not quite as stable, and may produce harmful compounds when heated," she says.
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