A new study of people over 65 has shown that olive oil can help prevent stroke. Researchers studied about 7,000 people who were over the age of 65 and were living in three separate cities in France for a period five years.
They found that people who regularly used olive oil for cooking, as a relish, or in snacks, dips, sauces or salad dressings, had a lower incidence of stroke than people who never used it. The study which was published in the journal Neurology concluded that older people should be given dietary advice about the benefits of olive oil for reducing stroke risks.
Stroke is relatively common in older people, and olive oil supplements offer an inexpensive easy way to reduce the risks.
The study found the stroke risk was about 40% lower in those who regularly used olive oil compared with those who abstained. Other factors such as weight, other aspects of the diet, and exercise, were taken into account for these estimates.
Having olive oil in the diet reduces the risk of stroke by almost half from 2.6% to about 1.5% risk over six years.
However, it should be emphasized that the risk of stroke would only be reduced through consuming olive oil as an alternative to other cooking fats and as part of a healthy balanced diet that is low in saturated fat and salt.
This study was based on responses from the public and was not a certified clinical trial. More research is needed to scientifically test the effectiveness of olive oil as an ingredient that can reduce the risk of stroke after eliminating all the associated factors.
Olive oil is known to contain a number of valuable antioxidants that are absent from other cooking oils. The higher proportion of monounsaturated fats in olive oil is also beneficial as substituting polyunsaturated fats with polyunsaturated ones is generally associated with a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease.
Olive oil is very rich in monounsaturated fats, especially oleic acid and its use as a replacement for saturated fats in other oils may explain many of its benefits.
There is extensive clinical data that demonstrated that eating olive oil can provide health benefits for the heart and circulation via improvements in cholesterol regulation. Olive oil helps lower the level of 'bad' LDL cholesterol and substitutes 'good' cholesterol forms known as HDL.
Olive oil also has a role in preventing the formation of blood clots, lowering blood pressure and helping the dilatation of the walls of blood vessels. Some clinical studies suggest that it is olive oil's phenolic content, rather than its fatty acid profile, that is responsible for its benefits for the heart.
A clinical trial published in 2005 examined the effect of olive oil on the elasticity of arteries. A group of people ate about 38 ml of olive oil rich in polyphenol antioxidants like oleuropein or tyrosol, and 58 gm of white bread each morning for two consecutive days. The elasticity of the arterial walls of each person was measured.
It was shown that the olive oil in the diet increased arterial elasticity. In the longer term, increased elasticity of arterial walls may reduce vascular stress and could reduce the risk of two common causes of death - stroke and heart attacks
Olive oil has long been promoted for its potential health benefits including lowering high cholesterol, high blood pressure and the incidence of heart disease because of its association with the so-called 'Mediterranean Diet'.
This diet is generally regarded as the traditional diets in 1950-1960 for people living in countries like Southern Italy and Greece, that have been studied extensively over the past several years. Eating red meat sparingly and more fish is an important part of this diet. It is generally believed that the traditional Mediterranean Diet is healthier than the American or North European diets because it contains more grains and complex carbohydrates such as spaghetti, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts. The key ingredient for the Mediterranean diet is virgin olive oil.
The original Mediterranean Diet features are: