June 17, 2011

Olive oil lowers stroke risk

Olive oil lowers stroke risk 

Older people who include olive oil in their diet may have a lower risk of stroke, a French study said, raising the possibility that the well-known connection between olive oil and heart disease may extend to strokes as well.

The study, which followed older French adults for five years, found that people who regularly used olive oil were 41 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who never used it.

"These results suggest a protective role for high olive oil consumption on the risk of stroke in older subjects," wrote study leader Cecilia Samieri of the French national research institute INSERM, in Neurology.

The study included 7,625 adults age 65 and older who reported on their diets and other lifestyle factors. People who said they used olive oil for both cooking and as a dressing were considered "intensive users."

After analysis, with adjustment for other diet habits, exercise levels and major risk factors for stroke, heavy olive oil use was tied to 41 percent reduction in the odds of stroke.

Samieri's team also took blood samples from another 1,245 older adults, measuring their levels of oleic acid -- an acid found in olive oil, as well as oil made from a number of nuts.

The one-third of participants with the highest oleic acid levels were 73 percent less likely to suffer a stroke than the one-third with the lowest levels.

Further research is needed, said Nikolaos Scarmeas, with Columbia University in New York, who wrote an editorial published with the study.

"We need to remember that this is an observational study," he told Reuters Health, warning that while the research showed a correlation between olive oil and stroke risk, that doesn't necessarily translate into cause-and-effect.

"People who eat a lot of olive oil may be very different from people who don't," he said, adding that they may have higher incomes, eat better overall or exercise more often.

Samieri's team tried to adjust for those differences. But still, olive oil was still linked to a lower stroke risk.

Scarmeas said that it's impossible to fully account for all those variables outside of a randomized trial, and called for more study into olive oil's potential health benefits.

Previous studies have found that a so-called "Mediterranean diet" -- one that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, vegetable oils such as olive oil, whole grains, legumes, and fish -- can shield people from heart disease and help heart patients stay healthy. 

Source: Reuters Life!