According to a report from the University of Barcelona in Spain, adults who consumed 25 mL (nearly 2 tablespoons) of virgin olive oil daily for one week showed less oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol and higher levels of antioxidant compounds, particularly phenols, in the blood.
Antioxidants can help prevent oxidative damage, which is caused by free radicals, byproducts of the body's normal processes that can damage body tissues. Studies have shown that the oxidation of LDL cholesterol is associated with the hardening of arteries that can lead to heart disease.
The findings may help to explain the heart healthy benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables and grains and low in saturated fat from meat. Studies have documented lower rates of heart disease in countries such as Italy and Spain, where people consume more than one third of their daily calories from fats high in monounsaturated fatty acids.
But while all types of olive oil are sources of monounsaturated fat, extra virgin olive oil also contains higher levels of antioxidants, particularly phenols and vitamin E, because it is less processed. Phenols from other sources, such as red wine and onions, have been shown to help control cholesterol but there is little information about the effect of antioxidants from olive oil on cholesterol.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.