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March 05, 2020

Swapping in olive oil for butter, mayo could limit risk for heart disease

Healthy Eating Heart Health

Eating olive oil leads to better cardiovascular health in men and women, according to research presented at an American Heart Association conference. The study, conducted over a period of nearly 25 years, suggests using olive oil to replace butter, margarine and mayo.

Choosing to go with olive oil, whether as a spread or for cooking, could measurably reduce one's chance of developing heart disease compared to commonly used products, according the results of a new study.

While olive oil consumption has long been associated with improved cardiovascular health, research compiled by several collaborating institutions suggests it can have additional benefits as a replacement for butter, mayonnaise and margarine.

"Previous studies have linked high consumption of olive oil with better cardiovascular health, particularly in Mediterranean countries where olive oil intake is much higher than in the United States," said Marta Guasch-Ferre, lead author of the study and a Harvard University researcher. "Our aim was to investigate whether higher olive oil consumption was beneficial to heart health in the U.S. population."

By accounting for lifestyle and diet factors before assessing the impact of olive oil, the study was able to determine that those who ate more than half a tablespoon per day had a 15% lower risk of having any kind of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Replacing one teaspoon of butter, margarine, mayonnaise or dairy fat with the same amount of olive oil also lowered the risk of any cardiovascular disease by 5% and lowered the risk of coronary heart disease by 7%.

The study took place between 1994 and 2014, collecting information about diet and lifestyle every four years and comparing that to the participants' heart health. Those tracked included 63,867 women from the Nurses' Health Study and 35,512 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All participants were free from cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases at the start of the study.

Notably, the study found that similar heart health benefits can be gained by vegetable oils including corn, canola, safflower and soybean.

"Replacing any type of animal fat with vegetable oils, including olive oil but also others, could be a good strategy to improve cardiovascular health," Guasch-Ferre said.

The research was presented March 5 at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2020.

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