Olive oil consumption linked to a reduced risk of premature death

An assortment of heart-healthful foods, including whole grains, soup, vegetables, olive oil, and herbs, is shown against a wooden counter backdrop.

Adults who consumed a little more than a half-teaspoon of olive oil each day had an observed  reduced risk of dying early compared to peers who rarely or never consumed olive oil, according to research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. These observations extended to deaths related to cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, and respiratory conditions. The authors also found that swapping olive oil, a heart-healthy fat, for margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and dairy fat was associated with a reduced risk of premature death. 

These findings were based on nearly three decades of information shared by more than 90,000 U.S. health professionals participating in the Nurses’ Health Study or the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Study participants who consumed a higher proportion of olive oil were also more likely to report having Southern European and Mediterranean ancestry, be physically active, avoid tobacco, and follow a heart-healthful diet. However, after controlling for many of these and other factors, the authors found the associations between olive oil consumption and a reduced risk of premature death remained. They stress the observational nature of the study, noting the findings don’t prove that olive oil reduces risk for premature death. However, they described anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil, a monounsaturated fat containing vitamin E and antioxidants, which may help explain the associations they found. An accompanying editorial describes how this study fits into larger research, including prior studies that have found links between Mediterranean-style diets and reduced risks for cardiovascular disease

The research was partially supported by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and NHLBI. 

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