Critical research released in the industry publication journal Neurology from the American Academy of Neurology provides evidence that regular consumption of olive oil can help lower the risk of stroke. The study examined individuals over the age of 65 that are most vulnerable to the devastating effects of a stroke. Scientists suggest that olive oil taken as part of a healthy diet can lower the life-altering risks associated with a stroke by 41% in the elderly. Based on this body of work, researchers “suggest that a new set of dietary recommendations should be issued to prevent stroke in people 65 and older.”
To conduct the study, researchers examined the medical records of 7,625 aging adults 65 or older from three cities in France. Participants were in generally good health and had no prior history of stroke. Olive oil consumption was determined by use of dietary questionnaire and usage was broken down into three groups (none, moderate and intense) based on regular consumption habits. It is significant to note that virtually all olive oil consumed was extra virgin and cold pressed. This type of minimally processed oil has been found to lower the risk of heart disease in prior studies.
Participants were followed for a period of five years, and 148 strokes occurred during that time span. After considering dietary, lifestyle and medical history, researchers found that those with the highest intake of extra virgin olive oil were 41% less likely to suffer a stroke compared with those with the lowest consumption of the monounsaturated oil. In a secondary arm of this study where plasma fatty acid measurements were available, individuals with the highest oleic acid (olive oil fraction) were found to experience a 73% lower risk of stroke.
Researchers noted that olive oil consumption is associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, lipid abnormalities and obesity. They stopped short of suggesting which particular elements of olive oil provide the stroke-protective mechanism. Extra virgin olive oil is known to be a rich source of natural polyphenols from the olive fruit; it alters the oxidized, sticky nature of LDL cholesterol that is implicated with plaque build-up in the arteries.
The study author from the University of Bordeaux in France, Dr. Cecilia Samieri commented, “Stroke is so common in older people and olive oil would be an inexpensive and easy way to help prevent it.” The study did not specify the amount of olive oil used by those in the `intense` group that experienced the highest degree of protection from stroke. Nutritionists recommend that most people should add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil five days a week to reap the powerful health benefits of this monounsaturated oil.