Thursday, June 21, 2012

Just two tablespoons of olive oil a day could cut heart disease risk among Spaniards

This is probably just a poverty effect: Poor Spaniards can afford less  oil and also have poorer health

Olive oil has long been known to be good for the heart. Now scientists have found out  exactly how good it can be. And it doesn’t take much to enjoy the benefits.

According to their research, just two tablespoons of olive oil almost halves your risk of dying from heart disease. The equivalent of one tablespoon cuts the risk by around 28 per cent.

There have been numerous studies highlighting olive oil’s  benefits to the heart, but few  have investigated the extent to which this translates into reduced death rates.

The results are based on the diets of nearly 41,000 adults in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, which began 20 years ago.

While the research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found olive oil does not appear to reduce cancer deaths, there was an enormous impact on the death toll from heart disease.

Last night British experts said the results showed that olive oil, a large part of the so-called Mediterranean diet which is rich in fish, fruit and  vegetables, played an even bigger part in preventing heart disease than first thought.

The researchers stressed that they had allowed for the benefits  of other ingredients in the Mediterranean diet when assessing olive oil’s powers.

‘These findings are very significant,’ said Dr Charles Knight of the British Cardiovascular Society. ‘This is confirmation that olive oil is good for the heart.’

Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, compounds that can dampen inflammation in the body and possibly reduce the risk of clots.

Spanish researchers studied data on the eating habits of 40,622 men and women between 29 and 69, tracking them for just over 13 years to see what effect olive oil had on death rates. In the study period, just under 2,000 of the recruits died, including 956 from cancer and 416 from heart disease.

The data showed that heart death victims were among the lowest consumers of olive oil. Those who got through 29 grams or more a day – just over two tablespoons – were 44 per cent less likely to die from cardiac problems.


You can't win:  Low-fat salad dressing is 'bad for you'

Choosing a low-fat dressing for your salad might help you keep your weight down because it has fewer calories – but you could lose some other health benefits, a study shows.

It found higher-fat dressings help the body absorb more carotenoids, compounds in vegetables linked with a reduced risk of illnesses including cancer and heart disease.

Researchers from Iowa State University fed 29 people salads dressed with butter, high in saturated fat, canola oil for monounsaturated fat, and corn oil for polyunsaturated fat.

Each salad was dished up with three grams, eight grams or 20 grams of fat from dressings to see if fat dosage made a difference to the overall results.

The participants had their blood tested for absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids, which are compounds associated with a reduced risk of several chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

With all but the canola oil, made from genetically modified rapeseed, the more fat that was used the more carotenoids were absorbed, says the study in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

Canola oil promoted the same carotenoid absorption with three grams of fat as with 20g, suggesting it may be a healthy choice for weight watchers. Olive oil is also rich in monounsaturated fat.

Professor Mario Ferruzzi of Purdue University in the US said: 'If you want to utilise more from your fruits and vegetables, you have to pair them correctly with fat-based dressings.

'If you have a salad with a fat-free dressing, there is a reduction in calories, but you lose some of the benefits of the vegetables.'

Results showed corn oil was the most dependent on dose, with the more fat on the salad, the more carotenoids the participants absorbed.

The butter rich in saturated fat was also dependent on dose when drizzled on the salads, but not to a lesser extent.

Canola oil and olive-oil based dressings promoted the same carotenoid absorption at three grams of fat, as they did at 20 grams - suggesting this would be a good choice of dressing for people watching their weight but wanting to remain healthy.

The researchers are taking the study further by trying to understand how meal patterns affect nutrient absorption - determining whether people absorb more nutrients if they eat vegetables at one time or spread throughout the day.

Professor Ferruzzi added: 'Even at the lower fat level, you can absorb a significant amount of carotenoids with monounsaturated fat-rich canola oil.

'Overall, pairing with fat matters.

'You can absorb significant amounts of carotenoids with saturated or polyunsaturated fats at low levels, but you would see more carotenoid absorption as you increase the amounts of those fats on a salad.'


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