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|Emma McGowan NatureCity author & contributor|
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with over 600,000 deaths per year. If you’re averse to taking pharmaceutical drugs, pay attention to this recent study from Spain which suggests that olive oil may be more effective than pharmaceuticals at preventing cardiovascular disease.
The findings were published in the September 2011 issue of Atherosclerosis.
The 187 participants, all over the age of 55, were split into three groups: an olive oil group, a nut group, and a low fat diet group. The researchers measured the thickness of the arterial walls of all of the participants at the beginning of the study.
Over the course of a year, the olive oil group followed the Mediterranean diet supplemented with approximately 10 tablespoons per day of virgin olive oil. The nut group also followed the Mediterranean diet and supplemented it with approximately 1 ounce per day of walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts. The low fat diet group followed instructions for a low fat diet.
After one year, the scientists measured the thickness of the arterial walls again. They observed that the participants in the olive oil group and the nut group showed an improvement and regression of lesions, a result not seen in the low fat diet group or in people who took pharmaceutical drugs.
The formation of lesions occurs in the final stage of atherosclerosis. The lesions form when the fibrous plaque in the arteries breaks open, resulting in the clotting of blood. Eventually the lesions may completely block the flow of blood through the artery.
Olive oil has long been touted as a remedy for a variety of ills, including preventing colon cancer and reducing cholesterol. If you want to add more olive oil to your diet, it can be as simple as eating spoonfuls daily, as was done in this study. Also consider substituting olive oil for butter in your daily diet: you can use it for cooking, put it on bread, or use it as a salad dressing.
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