On this episode of Lifespan News, Ryan O’Shea discusses olive oil, a popular diet component for people who seek to live longer.
Olive oil is widely considered to be healthier than most other oils and fats, but as with many things online, its health benefits are often exaggerated. But some benefits are backed by compelling scientific evidence that is worth looking into, including a new study published in the journal Nutritional Epidemiology that found a strong association between olive oil consumption and lower risk of cardiovascular, cancer, and all-cause mortality.
This new populational study, was conducted by scientists in Spain, where olive oil consumption is part of the prevalent Mediterranean diet. However, it has several strengths that make it noteworthy, including its relatively long follow-up period of 18 years. The study included over fifteen hundred adult participants, with an average age of 46.
The results were quite impressive. During the study’s follow-up period, 317 deaths were recorded, including 115 due to cardiovascular diseases and 82 due to cancer. Compared to the baseline level of consuming olive oil less than once per month, the consumption of up to one tablespoon per day was associated with a 9% lower risk of all-cause mortality. The consumption of two or more tablespoons, however, was linked to a much greater reduction in the risk of death: 31% for all-cause mortality, 46% for cardiovascular mortality, and a 51% for cancer.
The researchers controlled for age, sex, educational level, body mass index, tobacco consumption, total hours of TV watching per day as a proxy for physical activity, and the presence of pre-existing chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
Some previous studies have indeed failed to detect an association between olive oil consumption and mortality, but some of those studies included short follow-up periods. Studies with longer follow up periods, including one with a follow-up period of 13 years that was published in the American journal of epidemiology in 2009, found a 26% reduction in all-cause mortality for the highest levels of olive oil consumption, which is fairly close to the 31% reported in this study. This suggests that benefits from olive oil consumption accumulate over time and can reach fairly significant levels.
A Harvard study published earlier this year is especially noteworthy . It has been conducted in the US rather than a Mediterranean country with a sample size of over 90,000 and an even longer follow-up period of up to 28 years. In that study, higher olive oil intake was associated with a 19% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, a 17% lower risk of cancer mortality, a 29% lower risk of neurodegenerative mortality, and an 18% lower risk of respiratory mortality.
Olive oil contains numerous compounds that could potentially explain its health benefits, such as monounsaturated fatty acids. It is also rich in phenolic compounds which have been shown to possess antihypertensive, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory qualities. Some studies also suggest that oleic acid, the most abundant monounsaturated fatty acid in olive oil, has anti-cancer qualities.
While this study shows a strong correlation between olive oil consumption and mortality from various causes, it does not directly prove a causal link, and people who consume significant amounts of olive oil might also have other healthy habits. Still, especially given the body of other research into this topic, it strongly suggests that regular consumption of olive oil is beneficial for health.
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November 13, 2022
Hmm how do you consume more than 2 tbls of oil per day? Do you actually ingest it separately?
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