The Joys of Olive Oil
As a native European, I learned to appreciate extra virgin olive oil at an early age. Olive oil is part of life in most of Europe. And it’s certainly part of the Mediterranean diet. In fact, one of the more interesting aspects of a recent study on the effects of the Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular health had to do specifically with olive oil.
Published earlier this month in the influential New England Journal of Medicine, the study examined the impact of the Mediterranean diet on nearly 8,000 people across Spain who were at high risk of developing heart disease. The 5-year study divided subjects into three groups. One group followed the classic Mediterranean diet, plus they got to eat all the nuts they wanted as snacks between meals (the mixed nuts were supplied for free). A second group received vague instructions to eat a lower-fat diet, and the third group followed a Mediterranean diet, plus all the free olive oil they wished to consume.
Both the nut-supplemented and olive oil-supplemented Mediterranean diet groups enjoyed better cardiovascular health than subjects in the third group, after 5 years. More precisely, people in either of the Mediterranean diet groups enjoyed a “reduced incidence of major cardiovascular events” compared to people on a generic lower-fat diet. Meaning they didn’t suffer heart attacks or strokes as often. I think this at least hints at something I’ve been saying for years: extra virgin olive oil is a health food, to be enjoyed at will, free of any guilt about calories!