The National Institutes of Health has funded research on the benefits of olive oil consumption. The results were predictable, thus supporting the idea that olive oil is a way to protect ourselves from the risk of heart disease and stroke — 21% lower risk is a big number. Also, if you daily give up a tablespoon of butter, margarine or mayonnaise and you replace it with one of olive oil, a drop of another 5% of the risk is at stake.
The study’s lead author Marta Guasch-Ferre examined nearly 100.000 people’s files about their lifestyle and detailed diet information from 1994 to 2014. It looks like a half-tablespoon a day of olive oil has a 15% reduced risk of any type of cardiovascular disease, and a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease.
Although the type of olive oil was not taken into consideration, all the bets go to the virgin one for being the less processed one. Also, other plant oils such as corn, canola, safflower, and soybean have benefits similar to olive oil.
Why the olive oil?
The differences between saturated animal fat and plant-based fat are old news. The intake of saturated fatty acids is directly related to cardiovascular risk. Plant-based fat contains oleic acid.
Oleic acid is a fatty acid that occurs naturally in various animal and vegetable fats and oils.
It is an odorless, colorless oil, although commercial samples may be yellowish. It is the most common fatty acid in nature. Salts and esters of oleic acid are called oleates. It is abundantly present in many animal fats, constituting 37 to 56% of chicken and turkey fat and 44 to 47% of lard.
Oleic acid is a common monounsaturated fat in the human diet. Monounsaturated fat consumption has been associated with decreased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and possibly increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Oleic acid is believed to be responsible for the blood pressure reducing the effects of olive oil. The thing left to be known is whether there’s an upper limit where olive oil’s benefits would stabilize or drop.