Replacing butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat with olive oil on a regular basis can literally save your life, according to a new study from the American College of Cardiology. The experts report that consuming more than half a tablespoon of olive oil per day is associated with a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, or respiratory disease.
Study lead author Dr. Marta Guasch-Ferré is a senior research scientist at the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Our findings support current dietary recommendations to increase the intake of olive oil and other unsaturated vegetable oils,” said Dr. Guasch-Ferré
“Clinicians should be counseling patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health. Our study helps make more specific recommendations that will be easier for patients to understand and hopefully implement into their diets.”
Based on data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the researchers analyzed the dietary habits and health outcomes of 60,582 women and 31,801 men. At the beginning of the study period in 1990, the participants were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Based on 28 years of follow-up, the researchers compared individuals who regularly consumed olive oil to those who rarely or never consumed olive oil. The study revealed that participants in the highest consumption category, had a lower risk of cardiovascular mortality by 19 percent and a lower risk of cancer mortality by 17 percent. These individuals also had a 29-percent lower risk of neurodegenerative mortality and an 18-percent lower risk of respiratory mortality.
According to the study, substituting 10 grams of olive oil (daily) for other fats such as margarine, butter, and mayonnaise lowers the risk of mortality from all causes by up to 34 percent.
“It’s possible that higher olive oil consumption is a marker of an overall healthier diet and higher socioeconomic status. However, even after adjusting for these and other social economic status factors, our results remained largely the same,” said Dr. Guasch-Ferré.
“Our study cohort was predominantly a non-Hispanic white population of health professionals, which should minimize potentially confounding socioeconomic factors, but may limit generalizability as this population may be more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle.”
The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.