Those who consume at least half a teaspoon of olive oil a day have a reduced risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, and diseases of the nervous system. Researchers report this in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
More than 90,000 adults – initially without cardiovascular disease and cancer – completed a questionnaire about their diet every four years. From this, researchers calculated how much olive oil people used in salad dressings, as an additive to food or bread, and for baking and frying at home. Within 28 years there were 36,856 deaths. Those who ate more than half a teaspoon of olive oil daily were 19 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, 17 percent less likely to die from cancer, 29 percent less likely to die from degenerative diseases of the nervous system, and 18 percent less likely to die from respiratory disease. Those who replaced ten grams of margarine, butter, mayonnaise or milk fat with olive oil generally had an 8 to 34 percent lower mortality rate.
Study participants with higher consumption of olive oil were also often more physically active, smoked less often, and ate more fruit and vegetables than those with lower consumption of olive oil. “Possibly this is a sign of an overall healthier diet and higher socioeconomic status. But even after accounting for these and other factors, our results remained largely the same,” said nutritionist Dr. Marta Guasch-Ferre.
Olive oil consumption between 1990 and 2010 had increased from 1.6 to about 4 grams a day, according to the study, while margarine consumption had fallen from about 12 to 4 grams a day. Consumption of other fats remained stable during this period.