The Lyon Diet Heart Study (Archives of Internal Medicine 1998; 158: 1181-1187) observed 605 patients who had previously recovered from a first heart attack. Subjects were randomly selected either to follow a control diet similar to the American Heart Association diet (limiting fat intake to less than 30% of calories, saturated fat representing 10%, polyunsaturated fat representing 10% and monounsaturated fat the remainder) or to start eating a Mediterranean-type diet consisting of higher levels of fish, fruits and vegetables, and olive oil and canola oil as the primary sources of fat. After only two years, there was a 76% reduction in the number of incidents of new heart disease in the group adhering to the Mediterranean diet.
A study from the University of Oxford, UK, suggested olive oil may protect against heart disease through the immune system. Researchers compared the effects of a diet high in monounsaturated fat, such as olive oil, to the typical United Kingdom diet, that is higher in polyunsaturated fat, among 60 middle-aged men. Over a two-month period, the diet high in olive oil significantly lowered blood levels of adhesion molecules that result when inflammation of the arteries occurs. Chronic inflammation damages arteries, which can lead to arteriosclerosis. A decrease in adhesion molecules may indicate another means by which olive oil protects against this disease.
Research has provided proof that a Mediterranean style diet, including olive oil, is a healthy diet and that olive oil may reduce cholesterol levels.
The American Heart Association (Journal of the American Heart Association, says that high monounsaturated fat diets (highest source of monounsaturated fats comes from olive oil) can be an alternative to the presently recommended 30% low fat diet to reduce the risk of heart disease. This comes close on the heels of a landmark study: The Seven Country Study (Mediterranean Diet Study) by Dr. Ancel Keys, that began in 1957. Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, author of the research report and member of the AHA Nutrition Committee, said, “Studies tell us that the type of fat may be as important as how much is eaten.”
The American Heart Association found in researching the modern day diet that Greece and especially the island of Crete had the lowest mortality rate due to cardio-vascular illness. Finland and the United States had the highest mortality rate. The only notable difference between the countries was the type of fat ingested.
In countries with high incidents of cardio-vascular disease, saturated fats were most often consumed. Saturated fats are high in cholesterol. Monounsaturates, on the other hand, contain no cholesterol. Fats and lipids are essential to a well balanced diet. They divide into saturates and unsaturates depending on whether they have simple or double bonds between their carbon groups. Fatty acids that have one double bond are monounsaturates. Polyunsaturates have several double bonds.
Olive oil contains unsaturated fatty acids. Oleic acid and linoleic acid are two unsaturated fatty acids. Olive oil is 80% oleic acid, placing it at the top of the list of monounsaturated fats. Saturated fatty acids are found in animal fats such as butter and lard. There are 2 types of cholesterol: low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL transport and deposit cholesterol in the tissues and arteries. LDL levels increase with a high intake of saturated fatty acids and are harmful. HDL eliminate cholesterol from the cells and carry it into the liver where it is passed through the bile ducts. While polyunsaturates reduce both the LDL and HDL, monounsaturates reduce LDL while increasing HDL. HDL is often referred to as the ” good cholesterol”. An increase in the levels of HDL will not only provide protection against cholesterol deposits, but it will actually reduce cholesterol levels in the body. Research has proven that using olive oil significantly increases HDL levels and that olive oil is the main source of monounsaturated fatty acids.
According to Professor Serge Renaud (France), Ancel Keys’ nutritional study that incorporated the World Health Organization’s mortality statistics concluded that Crete’s low mortality rate from coronary disease is attributable to the food that these island people consume on a daily basis. Although the people in Crete consume three times as much fat as the average American, olive oil is their primary source of fat. The people of Crete consume most of that olive oil in its raw form in salad dressings as well as on vegetables, bread and cheese. They eat meat once a week. They eat three times as much bread as the average American and, with the exception of religious holidays, they eat only black bread. While they do not eat much fish, they eat twice as much fruit as the average American. Beans and vegetables are also an integral part of their daily diet. They drink an average of one to two glasses of wine with every main meal.
These studies illustrate the commitment that the worldwide scientific community has made to exploring the full health potential of olive oil. The combination of new health findings and olive oil’s taste profile clearly distinguishes it from all other cooking oils.Virgin Olive Oil protects Heart Health and reduce Cholesterol levels,