Italian researchers investigating the relationship between diet and heart disease in women, observed a 46 percent decrease in risk for those women consuming the most greens. About the same risk in reduction was found for a slight increase in daily olive oil consumption. They collected data for nearly 30,000 women over about a five year period in three different Italian regions. Fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction and coronary revascularization events were observed through clinical records. Researchers tried to account for other factors such as body types, smoking, education, alcohol, menopause, and hypertension.
The women who daily consumed about two ounces of uncooked vegetables like spinach or endive had 46 percent less chance of heart disease than women who consumed less than two servings of the same foods per week. Consuming an extra ounce of olive oil daily reduced the risk of heart disease by 44 percent, compared with women who consumed a half ounce per day or less.
Green leafy vegetables contain folate, antioxidants, and potassium. Folate is thought to reduce homocysteine levels, which may be involved in heart disease. Antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage and inflammation, and potassium can lower high blood pressure. So it is not surprising to hear olive oil can protect the heart, but it is worth hearing again especially given the size of the study, and the fact it focused on women, who are prone to heart disease in modern, industrialized nations just as much as men. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, and it is a leading cause of disability for them.
Extra virgin olive may also reduce inflammation caused by stress, obesity, high blood pressure and blood sugar. The “Mediterranean diet” has been known about for many years, based on traditional foods eaten in Greece and Italy. Reducing meat, increasing vegetables, olive oil, and a modest amount of wine have been thought to contribute to a long life.
Image Credit: Victor M. Vicente Selvas