In recent years, people in the USA have become more health-conscious. This is a very positive change, given how rampant lifestyle disorders like heart disease, obesity, stroke, and type 2 diabetes have become.
Sadly, the USA is the unhealthiest industrialized nation in the world, and our diets have a major role to play in eroding our health.
As heart disease is the leading cause of death in the Western world, much research has been conducted on foods that heal your heart and foods that harm it, including olive oil.
As a layperson, you have probably come across numerous articles touting the health benefits of olive oil and have given serious thought to including more of it in your diet if you haven’t already been doing so.
However, you might have also encountered information stating that olive oil is bad for you as it promotes heart disease. Presented with contrary information from different sources, you might be confused.
Let’s clear up your confusion with an honest assessment.
Why Is Olive Oil Considered Good For Your Heart?
While dietary fats are a topic of debate, the verdict is almost unanimous when it comes to olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, which is considered the best quality oil available.
Rich in beneficial fatty acids, it is also loaded with powerful antioxidants that may reduce your risk of chronic diseases and help you fight inflammation.
Great Source Of Antioxidants And Healthy Fats
Extra virgin olive oil is extracted via a machine or hand pressing and does not use any heat or chemicals. It is, therefore, of the highest quality and retains all the valuable nutrients and antioxidants from the olives.
As per research, the high antioxidant content of olive oil may lower the risks of heart disease as well as breast cancer and cancers of the digestive system.
Supports The Cardiovascular System
Most people get the impression that, since olive oil is liquid fat, it’s bound to be detrimental for your heart health.
On the contrary, olive oil is primarily made up of monounsaturated fat that can, in fact, help reduce one’s risk for heart disease. Olive oil protects against inflammation and reduces oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
May Protect Against Stroke
The second-largest killer after heart disease, stroke is a major public health threat. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are some factors that increase the risk of heart disease also are risk factors for stroke.
Observational studies suggest that an olive oil-rich diet considerably reduces the risk of stroke.
May Lower The Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is one of the health issues that could potentially increase the chances of coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions.
Research suggests that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes may be eliminated by the regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil, thereby keeping heart disease at bay.
Does Olive Oil Promote Heart Disease?
While it is widely accepted that olive oil has many health benefits, it is hard to ignore the numerous sources that state the contrary.
The claim that olive oil may promote heart disease stems largely from the fact that it is a processed and concentrated fat extract at the end of the day, just like any other oil.
Let’s go through some points on the other end of the spectrum and find out the honest truth behind these claims.
Can Lose Nutrients During Processing
According to some sources, even though the olive fruit is a great source of nutrition and heart health, processing it to extract olive oil diminishes its nutritive value.
Admittedly, refined olive oil does lose some of its nutrients when extracted. However, this is not the case with extra virgin olive oil, which involves no chemicals or heat during processing, thereby retaining all of the olive fruit’s nutrition.
It should also be noted that refined olive oil doesn’t offer you the health benefits that extra virgin olive oil does.
May Increase Risk Of Atherosclerosis
A few studies have also shown that regular consumption of olive oil can contribute to atherosclerosis, a condition where the blood flow reduces because of clogged arteries.
According to renowned American physician Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, olive oil contains about 14-17% of saturated fats. He states that all kinds of fats, including monounsaturated fats like olive oil, could lead to a significant increase in new atherosclerotic lesions.
In essence, the key here is moderation. Although extra virgin olive oil is healthy for the most part, consuming it in large quantities on an ongoing basis may not prove to be good for your heart.
May Reduce Blood Flow
In a study conducted on volunteers by the University of Maryland heart specialist Dr. Robert Vogel, it was found that olive oil could cause arteries to constrict and reduce the blood flow.
While the above study sounds worrisome, other physicians offer a different perspective.
Dr. Frank Sacks, a cardiologist, and researcher at Harvard Medical School feels that an isolated biological effect, the constriction of blood vessels, cannot be considered solid evidence that olive oil promotes heart disease.
In addition, Dr. Vogel’s research has also shown that combining olive oil with foods loaded with antioxidants, such as fresh vegetables and red wine vinegar, combats the vessel-constricting effect.
The Bottom Line
Given that you now know about the various benefits of extra virgin olive oil and are also aware of the risks the consumption of any dietary fat could pose, you are now in a position to make an informed decision regarding your olive oil intake.
According to Dr. Rosane Oliveira, Founding Director of the UC Davis Integrative Medicine program, it’s better to use extra virgin olive oil than other oils or fats.
It offers a host of other benefits as well! The oleic acid and phenolic compounds present in olive oil appear to help prevent inflammation, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress, thereby boosting intestinal immunity.
The bottom line? Extra virgin olive oil boosts your overall health when consumed in moderation and in combination with other antioxidant-rich foods.
So, go ahead, grab a bottle, and drizzle over a hearty green salad to enjoy vibrant health!