Higher olive oil consumption linked with lower risk of premature death, study finds
Using olive oil instead of margarine, butter or other saturated fats may protect you from dying from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, dementia, and other conditions, a Harvard University study has found.
The study analysed the diets of people enrolled in two large government-funded studies: the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
Researchers then compared the diet findings to disease and death records for those people over time.
“It’s a combination of both decreasing the amount of saturated fat at the same time you’re increasing the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil,” Dr Howard LeWine, the chief medical editor of Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, said.
“The takeaway is to use olive oil every time you can as a substitute for saturated fats when you’re cooking or in your salad dressings,” Dr LeWine said, who was not involved in the study.
Men and women who replaced just over two teaspoons (10 grams) of margarine, butter, mayonnaise or dairy fat with the same amount of olive oil had up to a 34 per cent lower overall risk of dying than people who ate little to no olive oil, according to study author Marta Guasch-Ferre, a senior research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“This is the first long-term study, including more than 90,000 participants followed for up to 30 years, conducted in the American population on olive oil and mortality,” she said.
“Previous studies were conducted in Mediterranean and European populations where the consumption of olive oil tends to be higher.
“Our results provide further support for recommendations to replace saturated fat and animal fat with unsaturated plant oils, such as olive oil, for the prevention of premature death.”
People who reported eating the highest levels of olive oil had a 19 per cent lower risk of dying from heart conditions, a 29 per cent lower risk of dying from neurodegenerative disease, and an 18 per cent lower risk of dying from respiratory disease mortality compared with those who never or rarely consumed olive oil in place of saturated fats, said Susanna Larsson, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, in an accompanying editorial.
Both the study and editorial were published on Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The connection between olive oil and fewer deaths from brain disease was “novel,” Professor Larsson wrote.
“Considering the lack of preventive strategies for Alzheimer’s disease and the high morbidity and mortality related to this disease, this finding, if confirmed, is of great public health importance.”
Reference: Harvard Study