Why is olive oil so good for you? It seems like researchers from Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Barcelona may be closer to finding out.
According to the new study, a Mediterranean diet with olive oil included may lower the risk of heart disease, as it helps maintain blood flow and cleans arteries.
“A Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil improves the function of high-density lipoproteins, HDL, popularly known as `good’ cholesterol,” said lead study author Dr. Alvaro Hernáez of the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Barcelona.
The Mediterranean diet is well known as a heart healthy diet. It puts emphasis on fresh and organic foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices. Fats are replaced with healthy fats like organic olive oil and red meat is limited to a few times a month. Herbs and spices are used to flavor foods instead of salt, and fish and poultry are consumed about twice a week.
“Our hypothesis is that these dietary antioxidants may bind to HDL particles and protect them against different kinds of attacks,” Hernáez said by email. “As HDLs are more protected, they can perform their biological functions more efficiently and, therefore, they are able to remove cholesterol from arteries or contribute to the relaxation of blood vessels for longer.”
The researchers examined about 300 adults at risk for heart disease, and assigned them to random diets: a Mediterranean diet with one liter of olive oil per week, Med diet with 30 grams of nuts per day, or a low fat diet.
Blood tests and lab work showed that HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) functioned better in the olive oil group.
“We know the Mediterranean diet reduces risk of heart disease but still don’t know exactly why,” Rader said by email. “There is probably more than one reason, and this study suggests that one mechanism might be that the Mediterranean diet improves the function of HDL.”
“For people who are interested in reducing their risk of heart disease, the Mediterranean diet is probably the best proven diet to reduce risk,” Rader said. “I think the majority of people who don’t have other major dietary concerns should look toward the Mediterranean diet as a heart healthy diet.”
The study was published in the journal Circulation.
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2. “Mediterranean Diet Improves High-Density Lipoprotein Function in High-Cardiovascular-Risk IndividualsClinical Perspective.” Circulation. American Heart Association, Inc., 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.
3. “Mediterranean Approach to Improving High-Density Lipoprotein Function.” Circulation. American Heart Association, Inc., 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.