Olive Oil Consumption and Reduced Risk of Death
There’s no question that olive oil consumption is clearly associated with a markedly reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. That finding, in and of itself would certainly support the notion of adding olive oil to your diet. Beyond cardiovascular disease, there has been an increasing pursuit to determine if there is a meaningful association between olive oil consumption and risk of death as it relates not just to cardiovascular disease, but other causes as well including neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, respiratory disease, and even death from any cause – called all cause mortality.
To explore this relationship, Harvard researchers looked at data that followed close to 100,000 people for 28 years. These participants were free of cardiovascular disease or cancer at the beginning of the study and completed a food frequency questionnaire every four years. This is basically a tool in which each the participants recount, as best they can, the types and frequency that they consume various foods.
During the 28-year follow-up period, approximately 37,000 of the participants died. And here’s how the risk of death was modified in comparing those consuming the most olive oil with those consuming the least:
|Cause of Death
|Risk Reduction (death)
These findings are profound. Seeing an almost 30% reduction in risk for death from neurodegenerative disease for example, is certainly compelling. Especially when we recognize that there is, as yet, no meaningful pharmaceutical treatment for Alzheimer’s disease specifically.
Why might olive oil consumption show this dramatic relationship across this spectrum of seemingly diverse disease categories? Well, it turns out that these diseases may well share a host of mechanisms that underlie their production. We now have robust research indicating that mechanisms like disturbances of the gut microbiome, oxidative stress, loss of insulin sensitivity, elevated blood pressure, decreased function of the lining of blood vessels (the endothelium), and threatening changes in blood lipids have negative implications throughout the body. And, as the authors of this study point out, the monounsaturated fats, phenolic compounds, and specific derivatives of fat found in olive oil work in concert to target this entire panel of negative inputs.
Olive oil has been a mainstay of my dietary program for many years. My goal is to consume at least a full liter of high quality, extra virgin olive oil each week. This adds to other important goals like keeping blood glucose and uric acid levels under control as it relates to targeting the very mechanisms underlying chronic degenerative diseases that are mentioned above.