Half a Tablespoon of Olive Oil May Aid Heart

For most of us, cutting down on dietary fat is one of the first things we do when we find out we should take better care of our hearts. However, many studies have found that the Mediterranean diet — which is rich in fat — can be beneficial for heart health. New research is pushing that discovery even further and make our understanding better.
 
There was some evidence showing that olive oil was beneficial for heart disease, but most of the research until now was conducted in Mediterranean populations,” said lead study author Marta Guasch-Ferre from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We wanted to see if these associations were also significant in the U.S. population, where usually intake of olive oil is lower.”
 
They discovered that people who had more than half a tablespoon of olive oil a day had a 21 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease. The researchers examined the lifestyle factors and diet of almost 100,000 people from 1990-2014 to draw their conclusions. The participants were mostly white and healthy before the study. All the information was self-reported by the test subjects.
 
Folks who ate more than half a tablespoon of the oil every day had a 15 percent lower risk of all heart diseases. And, replacing saturated fats from animals — butter, mayo and margarine — with olive oil lowered the risk of heart disease and stroke by five percent. However, margarine’s quality has increased significantly since the ‘90s, so that might not be true for the spread now.
 
While it’s tempting to add the oil into our day and move on, it’s not that simple. The olive oil has to replace other fats, not just join them. “Don’t just add olive oil to your regular diet. Substitution is what’s important here,” said Dr. Frank Hu, who chairs the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The main thing is to replace unhealthy fats with olive oil and that can improve cholesterol, reduce inflammatory biomarkers and improve cardiovascular health.”
 
Using statistical models, the scientists think other plant-based oil may garner similar results. “This means that replacing any type of animal fat with vegetable oils, including olive oil but also others, could be a good strategy to improve cardiovascular health,” said Dr. Guasch-Ferre.
 
Replacing animal fats can be easy in some cases and take more thought for others. For instance, while it’s easy to cook with oil, it’s harder to use it as a spread. If you like mayo or butter on a sandwich, try changing it up with a homemade dressing. As plant-based oils appear to be better across the board, perhaps try avocado in the place of butter or margarine. And, if you can’t swap an oil for the animal fat, there might be other options to remove it. As an example, on pancakes or waffles, you can use whole-fruit based jam for a healthy alternative to syrup and butter. Looking for the swaps may open you up to all new options!
March 09, 2020
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