The Mediterranean diet is good for your heart!
Countless studies have shown that using olive oil in a healthy ‘Mediterranean diet’ is good for your heart.
A study reported by the British Heart Foundation on 7,200 people in 2014 found “increasing your extra virgin olive oil consumption by 10g a day could cut your risk of cardiovascular death and heart disease by 10 per cent.“
A larger study published in Spain, which ran for 5 years and involved 40,000 people concluded;
“Olive oil was associated with a decreased risk of overall mortality and an important reduction in CVD (Coronary Vascular Disease) mortality in this large Mediterranean cohort. This provides further evidence on the beneficial effects of one of the key Mediterranean dietary components.“Catalan Institute of Oncology, Barcelona, Spain 2012
5 ways the healthy Mediterranean diet can help your heart
A big part of the Mediterranean diet is extra virgin olive oil which protects against heart disease in the following ways:
1. Reduce inflammation
Our bodies are continuously exposed to low-grade chronic inflammation. This increases as we get older. We become less and less capable of repairing our bodies and fighting disease as a result.
Extra virgin olive oil is packed with antioxidants and over 36 phenolic compounds and as a result olive oil has a peppery taste. One of these compounds, oleocanthal, has anti-inflammatory properties. It works in a similar way to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and therefore elicits the same response in the body as ibuprofen.
2. Protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidation
You may have heard about bad cholesterol LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and good cholesterol HDL (high-density lipoprotein). Oxidised LDL is the worst form is These are just a few of its serious effects:
- Damage to insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas and so can lead to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
- Secondly, inflammation of the liver (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)). This is fatty liver which is part of metabolic syndrome.
- Thirdly it can cause structural damage to your tendons resulting in to inflammation and pain. It could be the part of the reason why tendons like your Achilles aches after exercise.
A 2012 study published in the American Society for Nutrition showed olive oil prevented the oxidation of LDL cholesterol; something that did not happen when sunflower oil was taken instead.
3. Lowering blood pressure
An Italian 2004 study published in Clinical Nutrition looked at patients taking medication for mild to moderate high blood pressure. Those in the study either took olive oil or sunflower oil for 6 months. Those taking olive oil were able to reduce their medication by on average 50% and some were even able to stop taking it altogether. Those taking sunflower oil.
4. Improving the lining of blood vessels
A study published in 2012 in Biomedical Research International reported that patients with impaired function of the lining of their blood vessels (endothelium) showed, ‘significantly improved endothelial function’ when taking olive oil in their diet. Inflammation of the endothelial lining results in reduced endothelial function and is a predictor of cardiovascular disease. As a result the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease is higher. The olive oil had a beneficial anti-inflammatory effect.
5. Prevent excessive blood clotting
A 2007 Spanish study reported that taking olive oil reduced the concentration of two components involved in blood clotting; factor VII antigen and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1. Excess clotting activity in the blood is associated with vascular disease.
There are hundreds of studies on the beneficial effects of olive oil in a healthy Mediterranean type diet. The benefits reported here are due to the polyphenolic compounds found in high concentrations in extra virgin olive oil and their action to reduce inflammation in the body.