A Harvard study (published on January 10th, 2022) of more than 90,000 US healthcare professionals found that consuming even a small amount of olive oil each day is associated with reduced mortality.
The study compared men and women who rarely or never consumed olive oil to those who consumed more than .5 tablespoons per day over a 28 year follow-up. The researchers found that the participants with a higher intake of olive oil had a 19% lower risk of all-cause mortality.
Over the 28 years of follow up, the study also concluded that olive oil may have a significant impact on diseases and cause-related deaths. Those with the highest intake of olive oil had a 19% lower cardiovascular disease mortality, a 19% lower risk of dying of cancer, a 29% lower risk of dying from neurodegenerative disease, and an 18% lower risk of dying from respiratory disease.
The researchers also found a significant 27% reduced risk of dementia-related mortality for those in the highest category of olive oil consumption compared to those in the lowest category. This could be, if confirmed, an incredibly important finding considering the lack of preventative strategies for Alzheimer's disease and the high mortality related to the disease.
The best way to increase olive oil intake and reap the benefits of the phenols and antioxidants? Researchers from the study recommend replacing 10g per day (or .35 ounces) of margarine, butter, mayonnaise or dairy fat with the same amount of olive oil. This simple lifestyle change was associated with an 8-34% lower risk of death from various causes.
"Other things are very important, such as not smoking, doing physical activity, etc, but one recommendation could be to try to eat more plant-based food including olive oil and healthy fat," says Marta Guasch-Ferré, PhD, a senior research scientist in the Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “And to use it for cooking, salad dressing, and baking, and substitute it for saturated fat or animal fat, especially for cooking.”
The researchers also confirmed that extra-virgin olive oils contain multiple bioactive and antioxidant components that are not found in refined or processed olive oils, and that extra virgin olive oils are superior in polyphenols and Vitamin E. Polyphenols and and Vitamin E are large contributors to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of olive oil.
While follow-up questions still remain about the impact of olive oil on mortality, this well-designed study with long-term follow-up is one of the biggest and most detailed studies to date - resulting in new, incredible findings of the health benefits associated with olive oil.