Olive Oil for Heart Health

By March 15, 2018May 11th, 2018Food For Thought, health

Is olive oil really good for me?

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Olive oil has long been suspected to be one of the keys to the so-called ‘French paradox’.

Despite the fact that the French smoke more than us, and eat the same high levels of saturated fat, they live longer than us and have low levels of coronary heart disease.

The ‘Mediterranean Diet’ is one popular explanation – and one part of that is a lot of olive oil.

Olive oil is often sold as ‘extra virgin’, which is unprocessed oil from  olives, and contains many more chemicals associated with the plant such as polyphenols.

These are thought to be potentially good for us.  So ‘extra virgin’  oil has often been said to be better for our health than ‘virgin’  or ‘refined’  oil.

a team at the University of Glasgow have developed a new way of measuring subtle changes in heart health.  This can happen over only a few weeks, by looking at changes in the patterns of proteins excreted in peoples’ urine. A technique known as proteomics.

The experiment

Drs Bill Mullen and Emilie Combet Aspray recruited 70 volunteers, who all donated a sample of urine. They were then split into two groups – one group were given a supply of extra virgin olive oil, and one group ‘normal’ olive oil. Neither they, nor the research team, knew which oil they were being given. Each person had to take 20ml of olive oil a day

The results

The average measure of coronary artery disease for both groups fell significantly .  See chart for  both 3 weeks, and  at 6 weeks after taking the olive oil.


In this experiment, it seems that taking 20ml of raw olive oil – either extra virgin or ‘normal’ – can have a positive effect on our hearts.

Because both extra virgin and ‘normal’  oil appeared to have exactly the effect, it seems that it is not the extra plant chemicals in extra virgin that are having the beneficial effect – instead it seems to be something about the oil itself – either the balance of monounsaturates, polyunsaturates and saturates, or perhaps its omega 3 and omega 6 oil content.

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