Adapted from an article by Susanna Larsson in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, January 20, 2022.
Olive oil is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, which is also abundant in plant foods. High adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been associated with lower incidence and mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer. For CVD, the association with the Mediterranean diet appears most attributable to olive oil, fruit, vegetables, and legumes.
In the January 2022 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a team of investigators reported results from a study of olive oil consumption and risk of all-cause and cause-specific death in 2 cohorts of more than 90,000 US women and men.
In this large, well-designed study, with long-term follow-up and repeated measurements of dietary intake and other risk factors for diseases, participants who reported the highest olive oil consumption—half a tablespoon or more per day—had a 19% lower risk of all-cause death, 19% lower risk of death from CVD, 17% lower risk of death from cancer, 29% lower risk of death from neurodegenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s), and 18% lower risk of death from respiratory disease (such as COPD), compared with those who never or rarely consumed olive oil, after adjustment for known risk factors and other dietary factors. Lower daily olive oil consumption, up to 1 teaspoon, reduced the risk of all-cause death by 12% and death from CVD, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases significantly as well. The authors subsequently performed substitution analyses and found that replacement of margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and dairy fat with olive oil was associated with a reduced risk of mortality. However, substituting olive oil for other vegetable oils (such as canola, corn, safflower, and soybean oil) did not confer a reduced mortality risk. This suggests that vegetable oils may provide similar protective benefits.
A novel finding of this study is the inverse association between olive oil consumption and risk of neurodegenerative disease mortality. Alzheimer’s disease is the major neurodegenerative disease and the most common cause of dementia. The authors found a significant 27% reduction in risk of dementia-related death for those in the highest vs lowest category of olive oil consumption. Considering the lack of preventive strategies for Alzheimer’s disease and the high morbidity and mortality related to this disease, this finding, if confirmed, is of great public health importance.
Reference: Guasch-Ferré M, Li Y, Willett WC, et al. Consumption of Olive Oil and Risk of Total and Cause-Specific Mortality Among U.S. Adults. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2022;79(2):101–112.