Review supports olive oil as nature's super food for the heart

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Olive oil, Atherosclerosis

The benefits of olive oil for heart health go way beyond just
reducing levels of LDL ('bad') cholesterol, says a new review that
looks set to further bolster the healthy image of the oil.

Numerous studies have reported that olive oil - the main fat in the Mediterranean diet - to improved cardiovascular health and protection from certain types of cancer, and this science has filtered down to the consumer. Indeed, Mintel's Edible Oils​ report said that the UK olive oil market has been on fire since 2000, growing by 39 per cent to date in order to break through the £100m mark. "The wide range of antiatherogenic effects associated with olive oil consumption could contribute to explain the low rate of cardiovascular mortality found in Southern European Mediterranean countries, in comparison with other western countries, despite a high prevalence of CVD factors,"​ wrote reviewer Maria-Isabel Covas. The new review, published on-line in the journal Pharmacological Research​, is a timely "pulling together" of the biological and clinical effects of olive oil-rich diets on lipoprotein metabolism, blood pressure, thrombosis, and markers of oxidative damage, inflammation, and dysfunction of the cells that line the blood vessels (endothelium) that occurs early in atherosclerosis development). Looking at studies published in peer-reviewed literature, Covas, from the Institut Municipal d'Investigació Mèdica (IMIM - Hospital del Mar) in Madrid, states: "The benefits of olive oil consumption are beyond a mere reduction of the LDL cholesterol."​ Indeed, significant evidence exists that oxidative damage from reactive oxygen species (ROS) can be reduced in a dose-dependent manner with olive oil's polyphenol content, indicating that higher concentrations of the antioxidant polyphenols in the oil have a bigger positive effect. "The consistency of the anti-inflammatory effects of olive oil in humans results is promising, and further studies are now required to obtain sustained evidence of the anti-inflammatory activity of olive oil and its minor olive oil components per se in humans,"​ said Covas. However, the subject is not "cut and dried" and Covas called for more research into the health benefits of the oil: "The mechanisms by which olive oil exerts its beneficial effects merit further investigation, and further studies are required to obtain evidence of the benefits of olive oil consumption on primary end points for cardiovascular disease."​ Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and is reported to cost the EU economy about €169bn ($202bn) per year. Source: Pharmacological Research​ (Elsevier) Published on-line ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2007.01.010 "Olive oil and the cardiovascular system" Author: M.-I. Covas

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