Olive Oil Lowers Stroke Risk by 40%

July 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Health

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!

How olive oil protects against breast cancer

July 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Health

One of the main reasons for the benefits ascribed to the Mediterranean diet is the key ingredient of olive oil.  As well is helping protect against heart disease, and add flavour to food, it now seems that it also plays a key role in protecting against breast cancer.

It is no surprise in that the majority of research into the benefits of olive oil have come from those countries that produce it, and this is no exception.  Researchers at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain have spent over twenty years working to determine the effects fats have on breast cancer, and in particular the effects of virgin olive oil.   Now they have discovered a key mechanism by which virgin olive oil, in contrast to other vegetable oils, protects the body.  They have managed to decode a complete cascade of signals within breast tumour cells activated by virgin olive oil, and came to the conclusion that the benefits includes a decrease in the activity of the oncogene p21Ras – which spurs uncontrolled cell proliferation and stimulates the growth of tumours.  Other benefits include changes in protein signalling pathways, stimulation of tumour cell death and prevention of DNA damage

Any research into this area is important, as breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Western countries.   The link between a diet rich in fats and the incidence of cancer has already been established, but some types of fats can play a protective role against the development of these tumours.

In addition, olive oil suppresses the activity of some proteins, such as the AKT, essential for the survival of cells since they prevent apoptosis, the cell’s “suicide” programme. Between proliferation and apoptosis in tumour cells, these effects tip the balance towards cell death, thereby slowing the growth of tumours.

If you want to increase your protection against breast cancer, then your diet needs to include virgin olive oil – used cold, not in cooking – as this is associated with low incidences of specific types of cancer, including breast cancer.  It also has a protective role against coronary diseases and other health problems.

How to substantially lower your risk of AMD

June 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Healthy Ageing


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in the over 60′s. You lose that sharpness of vision you need for everyday tasks like driving and reading and it can result in total blindness.

Two new studies now offer hope that this decline is not inevitable and there is an easy preventive measure anyone can take. The University of Sydney’s Westmead Hospital’s researchers undertook a ten year study and found that eating more fish, nuts, olive oil and foods containing omega-three fatty acids may significantly lower the risk for AMD, particularly if you also avoid trans-fats in your diet.

The researchers found that eating just one serving of fish each week was associated with a 31 percent lower risk of developing early AMD and if you include just one to two servings of nuts a week then there was an increase to a 35 percent lower risk of early AMD. Olive oil is the real key here though as it provides even better protection than the fish. The optimum amount for benefit is over 100 ml a week.

I have long extolled the virtues of the Mediterranean diet, and this is pretty much what this is advocating. In this case the benefits come from the fact that these ‘healthy’ fatty acids may protect the eyes by preventing the buildup of plaque in the arteries and by reducing inflammation, blood vessel formation and oxygen-related cell damage in the retina.

The research also highlighted who was most likely to have late-stage AMD and that turned out to be those who ate the most trans-fats. These are usually found in processed foods and bakery items. They can lower their risk by cutting out those items and increasing the amount of omega-three fatty acids as that showed they were far less likely to have even early AMD.

Nutrients are known to help with AMD and research by the US National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that taking high-doses of antioxidants and zinc significantly reduced the risk of advanced AMD and its associated vision loss. The study involved the daily intake of 500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 International Units of vitamin E, 15 milligrams of beta-carotene, 80 milligrams of zinc as zinc oxide, and two milligrams of copper as cupric oxide.

Breast cancer natural preventives


As I always believe prevention is better than cure, I am happy to report two new pieces of information this week on easy, natural and enjoyable ways to reduce breast cancer risk.

Breakthrough 1 gives you even more reasons to enjoy a nice cup of tea. If you are a regular black or green tea drinker then you are already helping to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and endometrial cancer. Regular tea drinking has two important functions: it inhibits uncontrolled cell growth, known as cell proliferation, and encourages the death of cancer cells, known as apoptosis. A recent study found that smokers who drank four cups of decaffeinated green tea per day showed a 31 percent decrease in oxidative DNA damage in white blood cells as compared to those who drank four cups of water. Oxidative DNA damage is implicated in the promotion of many forms of cancer. Now a new study has also linked tea to a substantial decrease in breast cancer risk. Particularly for women under 50, the risk is reduced by 37%, and as this is the group in whom the cancer can be particularly virulent and fast acting this is very worthwhile news. In fact, let’s raise a cup together, preferably green or white tea as these are the least processed. The darker the tea, the more processing as a rule, but these two have even more health benefits, and up that to three cups a day to boost your immune system and lower your cancer risk.

Breakthrough 2 concerns another favourite staple, and that is olive oil. Australian researchers have reported that that olive oil has a host of positive health effects, and now researchers from the Catalonian Institute of Oncology (ICO) in Girona have discovered specifically that extra virgin olive oil appears to be a powerful weapon against breast cancer.

The key ingredient is the polyphenols that are present in extra virgin olive oil. These are powerful natural antioxidants found in abundance in olive oil and are highly active against both HER2-positive and HER2-negative breast cancers cells. Polyphenols in the oil not only inhibit the activity of cancer-promoting HER2 activity but also promotes the protein’s degradation.

As Jamie Oliver would say, give it a good glug and not only will your food taste better, but your cells will thank you.