According to the 2020 U.S. and World Health Report, the Mediterranean diet was voted the best diet to try for healthy eating as well as the easiest diet to follow. Now, thanks to some new research, we have greater insight into why that may be. Olive oil is one of the diets main components, in fact, it’s involved in pretty much every dish you could make if you’re following the proper recipes. Thanks to some new research presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) annual Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions, we’ve learned that olive oil helps boost heart health and contains a myriad of other positive health benefits.
The data itself that was presented at these sessions analyzed research dating back to the early 1990’s. One of the biggest conclusions proved that ingesting more than ½ tablespoon of olive oil every day can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15%; it also can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 21%!
This isn’t the first time that scientists have found that olive oil has amazing benefits for heart health, however it is the first time that all the research was done strictly analyzing subjects living in the United States. Marta Guasch-Ferre, PhD and lead author of the study claimed that “mostly, these associations have been shown in the past in Mediterranean and European populations, but until now, there was no previous study that showed results in a U.S. population.”
“Olive oil is a simple way to replace unhealthy, saturated, and trans-fatty acids of animal fats with a source of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol. It has also been associated with improved vascular function, heart health, and survival,” according to Dr. Benjamin Hirsh, who also was involved in the study.
These health benefits have already been understood amongst individuals in the medical industry, however, they just weren’t aware of the full extent of it all especially within the US population. Olive oil can be used to replace practically all animal-based fats; such as butter or mayonnaise which are obviously much less healthy when it comes to digestive/heart health.
What also surprised the researchers behind the study was that these benefits are not exclusive to just olive oil. In fact, many other plant derived oils also have positive effects on overall heart health such as corn, safflower and soybean oil. However Guasch-Ferre wanted to emphasize in her findings that not nearly the same amount of research has been done with other plant oils compared to olive oil, especially in regard to heart health specifically, but the initial findings are still promising.
“While olive oil was better than animal fat when we did the substitution analysis, they were not superior to vegetable oils. This means that other vegetable oils could be a healthy alternative compared to animal fat, especially because they tend to be more affordable in the U.S. compared to olive oil,” Guasch-Ferre stated.
One thing that Guasch-Ferre also wishes they could’ve done more analysis on was studying the different effects of different types of olive oil, such as virgin or extra virgin. There’s already been some evidence that shows extra virgin olive oil is much better at helping your body with protein production, as well as helping reduce intestinal inflammation, so it would be interesting to see the concrete data between different varieties of olive oil and their different health outcomes.
The final point of this study was to emphasize the heart health benefits of olive oil, but also reinforce that good heart health in general is the result of good diet, physical activity, and frequent visits to the doctor. The Mediterranean diet is still the most recommended among healthcare professionals, as it doesn’t limit the options of what one can have, but does enforce healthier ingredients and lifestyle choices.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.