Higher olive oil intake linked to lower death risk in heart disease

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In a new study from Harvard, researchers found consuming more than 7 grams (>1/2 tablespoon) of olive oil per day is linked to lower risk of death in heart disease, cancer, brain disease and respiratory disease.

They found that replacing about 10 grams/day of margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil is linked to a lower risk of mortality as well.

In the study, the team analyzed 60,582 women and 31,801 men from two national studies who were free of heart disease and cancer in 1990.

During 28 years of follow-up, diet was assessed by a questionnaire every four years.

Olive oil consumption was calculated from the sum of three items in the questionnaire: olive oil used for salad dressings, olive oil added to food or bread, and olive oil used for baking and frying at home.

Over the course of 28 years, there were 36,856 deaths with 22,768 occurring in the Nurses’ Health Study and 14,076 in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

The team found participants with higher olive oil consumption were often more physically active, had Southern European or Mediterranean ancestry, were less likely to smoke and had a greater consumption of fruits and vegetables compared to those with lower olive oil consumption.

The average consumption of total olive oil in the highest category was about 9 grams/day at baseline and included 5% of the study participants.

When researchers compared those who rarely or never consumed olive oil, those in the highest consumption category had a 19% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, 17% lower risk of cancer mortality, 29% lower risk of neurodegenerative mortality and 18% lower risk of respiratory mortality.

The study also found substituting 10 grams/day of other fats, such as margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat, with olive oil was associated with 8-34% lower risk of total and cause-specific mortality.

They found no strong associations when substituting olive oil for other vegetable oils.

The findings support current dietary recommendations to increase the intake of olive oil and other unsaturated vegetable oils.

The team says clinicians should be counseling patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about antioxidant drug that could protect against stroke and heart attack, and diabetes drug that could reduce death in heart failure.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about healthy diet that could prevent recurrent heart attacks, and results showing that vitamin K may lower your heart disease risk by a third.

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. One author of the study is Marta Guasch-Ferré, Ph.D.

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