New research from LaTrobe University shows consuming extra virgin olive oil every day can significantly reduce blood pressure, which is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
It’s the first Australian study to show that olive oil consumption is linked to decreased central systolic blood pressure.
The study, led by La Trobe University and published in Nutrients, is also important because it involved participants from many cultural backgrounds. Fifty healthy adults with diverse backgrounds and dietary habits took part in the clinical trial. The results showed that you don’t have to have a Mediterranean heritage to benefit from olive oil consumption.
Just four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day can reduce central systolic blood pressure by 2.5 per cent; and peripheral systolic blood pressure by 2 per cent.
Extra virgin olive oil shows clear benefits over refined low-polyphenol olive oil
The trial compared the effects of extra virgin olive oil with refined low polyphenol olive oil.
Participants were asked to add 60 millilitres – or 4 tablespoons – of either extra virgin or refined olive oil to their daily diets for three weeks.
After a two-week break where participants could not eat olive oil or olives, they were then asked to consume the alternative oil.
The researchers measured blood pressure after each three-week period.
The refined, low polyphenol olive oil had no significant effect on blood pressure, but the extra virgin olive oil caused reduced both central and peripheral systolic blood pressure.
Lead author and La Trobe PhD candidate Katerina Sarapis said this result is clinically important, as it was achieved without the use of any blood pressure medications.
You don’t have to eat a Mediterranean diet to benefit
Ms Sarapis said that understanding how olive oil consumption impacts multi-ethnic communities is important.
“Extra virgin olive oil is rich in a variety of active compounds such as polyphenols, which have proven health benefits thanks to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties,” Ms Sarapis said.
“This popular oil is widely recognised as a nutritious source of dietary fat when paired with traditional, Mediterranean style diets from Greece and Spain. Our study confirms the benefits associated with olive oil consumption extends to people without Mediterranean heritage but who have different cultural upbringings, traditions and food preferences.”
An important step in the prevention of heart disease
Primary supervisor of the collaborative PhD project, La Trobe Associate Professor George Moschonis, said the study is an important step forward in heart disease prevention.
“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally. Our findings provide evidence for a potentially widely accessible dietary intervention that can reduce cardiovascular risk in populations not accustomed to a high consumption of extra virgin olive oil,” Associate Professor Moschonis said.
Note: This trial was supported by a seeding grant from La Trobe University. Cobram Estate provided partial financial support and extra virgin olive oil for this trial but had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results. Ms Sarapis has been supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.