Olive oil linked to lower death risk from Alzheimer’s, other causes, new research suggests
The health benefits of olive oil have long been touted. That’s because it’s packed with healthy fats, nutrients and antioxidants.
Adding olive oil to your diet could lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer, new research suggests.
The health benefits of olive oil have long been touted — olive oil is packed with healthy fats, nutrients and antioxidants — and it’s a vital ingredient of the Mediterranean diet. This new research, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American College of Cardiology, points up the potential of including olive oil in your diet.
The study, led by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, looked at the health and diet of 60,582 women and 31,801 men in the United States from 1990 to 2018. During the 28 years studied, those who said they consumed more than a half tablespoon of olive oil daily had a 19% lower risk of all causes of death and a 19% lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who rarely or never had olive oil.
People who consumed olive oil daily also reduced their risk of death from neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by 29%.
The researchers also found olive oil use was associated with a 17% lower death risk from cancer and an 18% lower risk of death from respiratory disease.
The association with a lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease is “a novel finding,” Dr. Susanna Larsson, an epidemiologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, wrote in an accompanying editorial titled “Can Small Amounts of Olive Oil Keep the Death Away?”
“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,” Larsson wrote.
The researchers found that even a smaller amount of olive oil appeared to have a healthful effect. Having up to a teaspoon daily was associated with a 12% reduced risk of death from all causes, they found.
Substituting three-fourths of a tablespoon of olive oil daily for margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat was associated with 8% to 34% lower risk of of all causes of death.
But lower risks weren’t found when comparing olive oil to vegetable oils such as corn oil and canola oil.
“This suggests that vegetable oils may provide the same health benefits as olive oil,” according to Larsson.
Study author Marta Guasch-Ferré, a research scientist in the nutrition department at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, said a good target for daily olive oil consumption is three to four tablespoons daily. That will help you reduce the amount of butter, mayonnaise and other animal fats used in cooking.
“At home, we almost always use olive oil for everything,” she said. “We use it for baking, to dress vegetables and salads and it is even a good option for frying.”
While the findings expand on the limited knowledge of olive oil’s health benefits, “More research is needed,” Larsson said.
That’s because there are still more questions. A targeted study comparing people who do and don’t consume olive oil could provide a scientific explanation for olive oil’s link with a lower risk of death. Scientists also could assess which kinds of olilve — extra virgin olive oil or refined olive oil, for instance — mmight offer greater health benefits.
For now, it’s important to view olive oil consumption in context with an overall healthy diet, experts say.
“We need to pay attention to have an overall healthy dietary pattern that is full of plant-based food including fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, healthy fats such as olive oil or nuts, healthy moderate protein intake (eggs, fish, poultry),” Guasch-Ferré said..
You also can lower the risk of disease by cutting consumption of processed meat, other processed foods, sugary drinks and desserts, she said, as well as keeping in mind the beneficial effects of exercise and the harmful effects of smoking.
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