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Olive oil 'keeps heart healthy'

24 November 2014 09:27

Eating olive oil regularly can help protect against heart disease

Eating olive oil regularly can help protect against heart disease

A tablespoon of olive oil per day can help keep your heart healthy, according to new research.

Scientists from the universities of Glasgow and Lisbon carried out a study in collaboration with a German medical diagnostics company to analyse the oil's health benefits.

Participants were given a daily dose of 20ml over a six-week period, after which they were found to have lowered their risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is the most common form of heart disease and can cause heart attacks.

Of course, the most fun way to get more olive oil into your diet is to book a trip to the Mediterranean, where it has been a staple for centuries.

Greece, Italy and Spain are among the major olive oil-producing countries, and it won't cost you the earth to take out travel insurance and book flights to these Southern European destinations.

The researchers analysed participants' urine to check for so-called proteomic biomarkers - proteins that are known to be linked to heart disease.

It's thought that natural plant compounds, phenolics, are one of the main reasons why olive oil has such a beneficial effect on the heart.

However, Dr Emilie Combet from Glasgow University's School of Medicine said that all olive oils, regardless of how many phenolics they contain, were found to have a positive effect on participants' heart health.

She said it's likely that the fatty acids in the oil are the "main contributors behind the observed effect".

Dr Combet said the health benefits could be even greater if people used olive oil instead of, rather than in addition to, other sources of fat such as butter.

Dr Bill Mullen, from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences in Glasgow, explained that it is the first time scientists have used urine analysis to measure the health benefits of food among a group of participants over only six weeks.

He explained that the method can tell doctors if a patient is at the "very early stages" of developing a disease, even before displaying any symptoms.

He said the method could be used in the future to encourage people to "change their lifestyle", and to check whether "so-called health foods" do have any nutritional benefits.

The findings of the study have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.