Consuming just a half-tablespoon of olive oil a day is linked to a significant reduction in the risk for cardiovascular disease, researchers report.
The scientists used health and diet data on 61,181 women and 31,797 men participating in two health studies beginning in 1990. Over 24 years of follow-up, there were 9,797 cases of cardiovascular disease.
After adjusting for age, ethnicity, alcohol intake, aspirin use, total energy intake and many dietary characteristics, they found that compared with people who used no olive oil, those who consumed at least one-and-a-half teaspoons (a half tablespoon) a day had a 14 percent lower risk for cardiovascular disease, and an 18 percent lower risk for coronary heart disease.
The lead author, Marta Guasch-Ferré, a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that the key here is that people substituted olive oil for unhealthy alternatives like animal fats and margarine. Other plant oils that contain unsaturated fats — safflower, corn and soybean, for example, but not palm or coconut oil, which contain saturated fats — might have the same beneficial effect if substituted for less healthy alternatives, she said.
“It’s not just adding olive oil,” she said, “but consuming olive oil instead of harmful fats.”