Is Olive Oil Bad for High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol?

Olive oil nutrition is beneficial for both blood pressure and cholesterol. The oil is part of the Mediterranean diet, an approach to eating that is linked to an array of wellness advantages.

Olive oil is goof for both high blood pressure and cholesterol. (Image: Foxys_forest_manufacture/iStock/GettyImages)

Aside from the oil, the Mediterranean-style diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fatty fish. When including olive oil in the diet for health, it's best to make it a part of a healthy eating plan. The Mayo Clinic points out that unwholesome food will still be unhealthy even when olive oil is added.

Tip

Olive oil is good rather than bad for high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Olive Oil for Blood Pressure

A small August 2012 study published in the A_merican Journal of Hypertension_ found that a key part of the olive oil nutrition profile involves antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, which can lower blood pressure. While the study had only 24 participants, it was a double-blind, randomized, crossover clinical trial, which is considered the gold standard in research.

The scientists compared the effects of consuming polyphenol-rich olive oil with polyphenol-free olive oil. Results showed that the polyphenol-rich variety reduced blood pressure and improved the function of the lining of blood vessels in women with mild hypertension.

Although a February 2014 study featured in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences dealt with rats, the interesting results are worth mentioning because they show what happens when the oil is eaten with healthy foods.

The researchers discovered that consumption of the monounsaturated fat in extra virgin olive oil with vegetables plentiful in nitrogen compounds generated nitro fatty acids. These acids lower blood pressure. The authors stated that following a vegetable-rich Mediterranean diet augmented with extra virgin olive oil can offer protection from high blood pressure.

Olive Oil for Cholesterol

The Mayo Clinic reports that olive oil can also improve cholesterol. Eating animal fats raises levels of a fatty substance called cholesterol, which can damage the walls of blood vessels when it accumulates, explains the International Olive Oil Council. As the condition progresses, it may lead to a heart attack. Olive oil helps prevent this malady by reducing levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL, or bad, cholesterol.

A February 2017 study featured in the journal Circulation compared the effects on cholesterol of three dietary interventions. These consisted of the Mediterranean diet augmented with 4 tablespoons of virgin olive oil; the Mediterranean diet augmented with a handful of nuts; and a healthy control diet that limited red meat, sweets and processed food.

The Mediterranean diet with the added olive oil improved the functionality of HDL, or good, cholesterol. Consequently, more cholesterol was removed from the arteries, an effect that lowers the risk of a heart attack and stroke.

Olive Oil for Cardiovascular Disease

It's reasonable to deduce that if olive oil is beneficial for blood pressure and cholesterol, it also has value for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, and this is supported by research.

A 2018 investigation featured in Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders Drug Targets states that numerous studies confirm that the Mediterranean diet has heart-protective properties. However, the research team discovered that the most relevant component of the diet that's linked to prevention of heart disease is olive oil. The oil's antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood vessel-dilation effects may decrease the risk of atherosclerosis, the depositing of clot-causing plaque in arteries.

In a May 2014 study published in BioMed Central Medicine, scientists explored the difference in the effects on cardiovascular risk of three dietary interventions: a low-fat diet, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts and a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil.

The results showed that approximately each tablespoon-sized increase of olive oil, especially the extra virgin variety, was associated with a 10-percent decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and a 7-percent reduced risk of death.

Olive Oil Use Recommendations

The Food and Drug Administration says research supports but doesn't prove conclusively that daily consumption of about 1 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil may lower coronary heart disease risk. In addition, according to the University of California Davis Olive Center, 2 tablespoons per day can reduce blood pressure. So, getting 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons daily may be a good idea.

Olive oil has many culinary uses. Harvard Health Publishing suggests using it in place of butter for scrambling eggs or sauteing vegetables. The University of Virginia Health System School of Medicine suggests pouring it over ripe tomatoes or using it as a base for a homemade salad dressing by mixing it with balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard.

Other ideas include adding it to vegetable soups, drizzling it over roasted chicken or cooked fish or using it as a bread-dipping sauce combined with herbs and Parmesan cheese.

Exercising care in storing olive oil can increase the shelf life. Instead of storing it near the stove or a source of heat, keep it in a cool dark cabinet. If you use the oil infrequently, store it in the refrigerator. Wrap a clear bottle of oil in aluminum foil to protect it from light exposure.

Olive Oil Shopping Recommendations

To receive maximum benefit from olive oil, buy the extra virgin variety. Harvard Health Publishing explains that this type of oil is extracted from olives manually, which means it isn't processed with chemical solvents or heat. So, it contains more of the healthful phenolic compounds.

When shopping for olive oil, be sure to look for certain characteristics that denote quality, advises the UC Davis Olive Center. If you're purchasing from an enterprise that permits tasting, pick an oil with a fresh aroma and fruity notes in the flavor. Bitter and spicy flavors also indicate a good content of healthy antioxidants.

Because heat and light impair freshness, pick an oil with a dark glass bottle, adds the UC Davis Olive Center. A label with a seal from organizations such as the Australian Olive Association or the California Olive Oil Council means the oil meets stricter standards than the minimal ones required by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Instead of looking for the "best by" date, look for a product with a recent harvest date. Since freshness deteriorates with time, buy a bottle size that you can use within six weeks.

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