March 06, 2000
A recent study looked at the basic disease process behind heart attacks; the development of blood clots which block the coronary arteries. Several studies in Mediterranean countries have shown that the incidence of heart disease is lower than would be expected by blood cholesterol levels. Many feel that this discrepancy can be explained by the high amount of olive oil in the diet in this region. But what is it in olive oil which lowers heart attack risk? Researchers Larsen LF, Jespersen J, and Marckmann P at the Centre for Advanced Food Studies, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Frederiksberg, Denmark decided to see if it was due to olive oil affecting the blood's basic ability to form clots. Less effective clotting would mean fewer heart attacks. The researchers compared the effects of virgin olive oil with those of rapeseed and sunflower oils on blood coagulation factor VII, which is a key factor in blood clot formation. In this study eighteen healthy young men consumed diets enriched with olive oil, sunflower oil, or rapeseed oil for a period of 3 wks. Levels of Factor VII were significantly lower in those who ate olive oil compared to sunflower or rapeseed (canola) oil. The study's conclusion was that olive oil may lower the procoagulant tendency of fatty meals which could explain the low incidence of heart attacks in Mediterranean countries.