Olive Oil Lowers Stroke Risk by 40%

July 18, 2011

Last week I was encouraging you to eat more strawberries and now continuing the healthy summer diet theme I would like to see you pouring out more of the golden liquid – preferably cold pressed and organic. New research shows that regular olive oil consumption lowers stroke risk and by a highly significant amount, particularly in the elderly.

Critical research released in the journal Neurology from the American Academy of Neurology provides evidence that regular consumption of olive oil can help to do more than keep your heart healthy. The value of the Mediterranean diet is now well proved but this new study study examined individuals over the age of 65 that are most vulnerable to the devastating effects of a stroke. Scientists suggest that olive oil taken as part of a healthy diet can lower the life-altering risks associated with a stroke by 41% in the elderly. Based on this body of work, researchers “suggest that a new set of dietary recommendations should be issued to prevent stroke in people 65 and older.”

The study author was Dr. Cecilia Samieri from the University of Bordeaux in France and she and her researchers examined the medical records of 7,625 aging adults 65 or older from three cities in France. These were in generally good health and had no prior history of stroke. Participants were monitored via a dietary questionnaire to record how much olive oil they used and then that was broken down into three groups: none, moderate and intense which was based on their regular consumption habits. Because this was a home, not a laboratory trial they were assessing not just their consumption but the type of oil they used at home and it is significant to note that virtually all of it was extra virgin and cold pressed. This type of minimally processed oil is what is recommended to combat heart disease and has been previously found to lower the risk of heart disease in prior studies. Extra virgin olive oil is known to be a rich source of natural polyphenols from the olive fruit; it alters the oxidized, sticky nature of LDL cholesterol that is implicated with plaque build-up in the arteries.

This was a long term study as they followed the participants for a period of five years, and 148 strokes occurred during that time span. After considering dietary, lifestyle and medical history, researchers found that those with the highest intake of extra virgin olive oil were 41% less likely to suffer a stroke compared with those with the lowest consumption of the monounsaturated oil. In a secondary arm of this study where plasma fatty acid measurements were available, individuals with the highest oleic acid (olive oil fraction) were found to experience a 73% lower risk of stroke.

Olive oil consumption is associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, lipid abnormalities and obesity and now strokes can be added to the list. Dr. Cecilia Samieri commented, “Stroke is so common in older people and olive oil would be an inexpensive and easy way to help prevent it.” The study did not specify the amount of olive oil used by those in the `intense` group that experienced the highest degree of protection from stroke but nutritionists recommend that most people should add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil five days a week to reap the powerful health benefits of this monounsaturated oil. Be generous with the olive oil in your salad dressing, and personally I add my salad dressing to hot vegetables as well, particularly good on carrots!


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