We’ve all heard that olive oil is good for your heart, but new research out of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health proves just how beneficial it can be in preventing death. Researchers found that people who regularly consume olive oil lower their risk of early death from cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurodegenerative disease, compared with those who don’t. What’s more, people who opt for olive oil over animal fat reduce their overall risk of total and cause-specific deaths.
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To determine if there were positive effects from consuming olive oil, the researchers studied health data collected from 1990 through 2018 on 60,852 women and 31,801 men. All of the participants were free of cardiovascular disease or cancer at the start of the study. Participants were required to answer a dietary questionnaire every four years. Questions included how often they use olive oil in salad dressing, in food, and in baking and frying. People who consumed more than seven grams of olive oil per day had a 19 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, a 17 percent lower risk of dying from cancer, a 29 percent lower risk of neurodegenerative mortality and an 18 percent lower risk of respiratory death than those who never or rarely consumed olive oil.
Can staying away from margarine, butter improve health?
When compared with the consumption of margarine, butter, dairy fat and mayonnaise, the researchers found that olive oil lowered the risk of total and cause-specific deaths; however, there was no significant difference between using olive oil and vegetable oil. “Clinicians should be counseling patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health,” Marta Guasch-Ferré, a senior research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School, said in a statement. “Our study helps make specific recommendations that will be easy for patients to understand and, hopefully, implement into their diets.”
Researchers have been studying the benefits of olive oil for years, but this marks the first long-term study on the impact consuming olive oil has on mortality in the U.S. Previous studies focused on people in Europe and the Mediterranean who consume olive oil at a higher rate. Now, with this study showing the potential benefits of incorporating olive oil into their diets, more Americans may increase their intake of olive oil.