A new study published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that regular consumption of more than 7 grams (>1/2 tablespoon) of olive oil lowers the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurological illness, and respiratory disease.
The paper also showed that replacing around 10 grams of margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and dairy fat per day with the same quantity of olive oil is linked to a lower risk of death.
“Our findings support current dietary recommendations to increase the intake of olive oil and other unsaturated vegetable oils,” says Marta Guasch-Ferré, study’s lead author. “Clinicians should be counseling patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health.”
Researchers evaluated data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which included 60,582 women and 31,801 men who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at the start of the study in 1990. A questionnaire was used to analyze diet every four years over the course of the 28-year study. In the preceding year, they were asked how often they consumed various foods, fats, and oils, as well as the brand or type of oils they used for cooking and adding to the table.
The total amount of olive oil consumed was estimated using the sum of three questions in the survey: salad dressings, olive oil applied to food or bread, and olive oil used for baking and frying at home. 13.5 grams of olive oil was equal to one tablespoon.
The participants’ stated oil brand and kind of fat used for cooking at home were used to calculate their consumption of other vegetable oils. The amount of margarine or butter added from baking and frying at home was calculated based on the frequency of stick, tub, or soft margarine intake and the amount of margarine or butter added from baking and frying at home. Dairy, other fats, and nutritional intakes were also calculated.
Olive oil consumption climbed from 1.6 grams per day in 1990 to roughly 4 grams per day in 2010, according to the study, while margarine consumption declined from about 12 grams per day in 1990 to around 4 grams per day in 2010. The amount of other fats consumed remained constant.
Consumption of olive oil was categorized as the following:
- Never or <1 time per month
- >0 to ≤4.5 grams/day (>0 to ≤1 teaspoon)
- >4.5 to ≤7 grams/day (>1 teaspoon to ≤1/2 tablespoon)
- >7 grams/day (>1/2 tablespoon)
There were 36,856 deaths over the course of 28 years, with 22,768 deaths in the Nurses’ Health Study and 14,076 deaths in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Participants who consumed more olive oil were more physically active, had Southern European or Mediterranean heritage, were less likely to smoke, and consumed more fruits and vegetables than those who consumed less olive oil. At the start of the trial, the average consumption of total olive oil in the highest category was around 9 grams per day, with 5 percent of the individuals falling into this category.
Researchers found that those who consumed the most olive oil had a 19 percent lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, a 17 percent lower risk of cancer mortality, a 29 percent lower risk of neurodegenerative mortality, and an 18 percent lower risk of respiratory mortality when compared to those who consumed the least olive oil. The study also discovered that replacing 10 grams of other fats per day with olive oil, such as margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and dairy fat, was linked to an 8-34 percent decreased risk of overall and cause-specific death. When olive oil was substituted with other vegetable oils, no significant relationships were discovered.
“It’s possible that higher olive oil consumption is a marker of an overall healthier diet and higher socioeconomic status. However, even after adjusting for these and other social economic status factors, our results remained largely the same,” Guasch-Ferré adds. “Our study cohort was predominantly a non-Hispanic white population of health professionals, which should minimize potentially confounding socioeconomic factors, but may limit generalizability as this population may be more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle.”
Susanna C. Larsson, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, wrote in an accompanying editorial, “The current study and previous studies have found that consumption of olive oil may have health benefits. However, several questions remain. Are the associations causal or spurious? Is olive oil consumption protective for certain cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke and atrial fibrillation, only or also for other major diseases and causes of death? What is the amount of olive oil required for a protective effect? More research is needed to address these questions.”
Image Credit: Getty
You were reading: Olive oil reduces death risk from heart disease and cancer by up to 34%