Do you still think of olive oil as strictly Mediterranean? It could be time to revise your diet – and re-stock your kitchen cupboards. Researchers at the University of Bordeaux in France have found that older people who regularly use olive oil for cooking and dressing salads, were 41 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who gave it a wide berth.
The six-year study, published in a recent online edition of the journal Neurology, studied 7,625 French people aged 65 years and over. It looked at how much olive oil they regularly used. 23 percent used none, 40 percent used it moderately, and 37 percent used olive oil intensively in their cooking and salad dressing. Most of the subjects in the study used extra-virgin olive oil. The researchers also took other stroke risk factors into account, such as high blood pressure, exercise, smoking and alcohol use.
After almost six years, there had been 148 strokes among the study subjects. The participants who used olive oil most had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who didn’t use it at all. The overall stroke rate was 1.5 percent for the olive oil users compared to 2.6 percent for the others.
The researchers aren’t able to say why it is that regularly eating olive oil should have this effect. Olive oil is rich in unsaturated fats. It could be that those people who ate the most olive oil used it instead of using products high in saturated fat. It may be that the olive oil users have a healthier diet and way of life generally.
“It’s an interesting study,” said Ursula Arens, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. “All the subjects are sixty-five plus, and statistically are a high-risk group for stroke. And they have shown statistically significant differences between the groups.
“One interpretation of the study is, is the olive oil protective? Or is it that the people who aren’t having olive oil are having everything deep-fried in lard, which might explain why they might have different disease rates.
“Olive oil is a healthy oil to have, (it is particularly high in oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid), by all means use it, but remember it’s a fat, like other fats. It’s a high-calorie food, but if you’re comparing lard and butter, at the extreme end of saturates, then obviously olive oil is a healthier choice. So if you’re frying something, then modest use of olive oil is healthy. If you want to dress your salads, olive oil is fine for that too.
“This study is one of many that supports the healthy aspects of olive oil consumption. And it’s another bit of evidence to say that if you want to be healthy, you don’t have to go for a completely fat-free diet of boiled rice and nothing else.”
*Every year over 150,000 people have a stroke in England
*Stroke is the third largest cause of death after heart disease and cancer
*Stroke is the largest cause of adult disability in the UK