Increased Olive Oil Intake Associated With Lower Cardiovascular Disease Mortality Risk

Olive oil consumption increased from 1.6 grams per day in 1990 to approximately 4 grams per day in 2010.

Patients who consumed more than 7 grams of olive oil per day had a reduced risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease, mortality from cancer, mortality from neurodegenerative diseases, and the mortality from respiratory diseases.

“Our findings support current dietary recommendations to increase intake of olive oil and other unsaturated vegetable oils,” said lead author Marta Guasch-Ferre, PhD, a senior researcher in the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition. in a press release. “Clinicians should advise patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health. Our study helps provide more specific recommendations that are easier for patients to understand and hopefully incorporate into their diet.”

The researchers analyzed 60,582 women and 31,801 men with participants from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Participants were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at baseline in 1990. Every 4 years over a 28-year period, the participants’ diets were assessed using a questionnaire asking how often, on average, they consumed certain foods and types of fats and oils, as well as what brand or type of oils they used for cooking to have.

Olive oil consumption was calculated based on the sum of 3 items in the questionnaire: olive oil used for salad dressings, olive oil added to food or bread, and olive oil used for home baking and frying. One tablespoon was equivalent to 13.5 grams of oil and the consumption of other vegetable oils was calculated based on the brand of oil and type of fat used for cooking at home, as reported by the participants.

Margarine and butter consumption was based on the reported frequency of stick, tub, or soft margarine consumption and the amount of margarine or butter added during home baking and frying. The intake of dairy products and other fats and nutrients was also calculated.

According to the study, olive oil consumption increased from 1.6 grams per day in 1990 to about 4 grams per day in 2010. Intakes of other fats remained stable.

“It’s possible that higher olive oil consumption is a sign of an overall healthier diet and higher socioeconomic status,” Guasch-Ferre said in the release. “But even after adjusting for these and other socioeconomic status factors, our results remained broadly the same.”

Over the course of 28 years, there were 36,856 participant deaths. According to the study, participants with higher olive oil consumption were often more physically active, had Southern European or Mediterranean ancestry, smoked less often, and consumed more fruits and vegetables than participants with lower olive oil consumption. The average total consumption of olive oil in the highest category at baseline was about 9 grams per day and comprised 5% of the study participants.

When researchers compared those who rarely or never consumed olive oil to those in the highest consumption category, they found that those with higher olive oil consumption had a 19% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, a 17% lower risk of cancer mortality, and a had a 29% lower risk of neurodegenerative mortality and an 18% lower risk of respiratory mortality. The researchers also found that replacing 10 grams per day of other fats, such as margarine or butter, with olive oil was associated with between 8% and 34% reduced risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality. They found no significant associations when substituting other vegetable oils for olive oil.

“The current study and previous studies have found that consuming olive oil may have health benefits,” said Susanna C. Larsson, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet, in the press release. “However, some questions remain unanswered. Are the associations causal or false? Does olive oil consumption protect against certain cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and atrial fibrillation, or just other serious diseases and causes of death? What amount of olive oil is needed for a protective effect? More research is needed to answer these questions.”


Higher olive oil intake is associated with a lower risk of CVD mortality. press release. EurekAlert; January 10, 2022. Accessed January 12, 2022.

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