October 06, 1999
Researchers at Harvard think so. As reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid is protective against fatal heart attacks in women. The study looked at a 116 item food questionnaire given to 76,283 women in 1984. 10 years later, women who reported a higher intake of oil and vinegar salad dressing, an important source of alpha-linolenic acid, had a lower rate of fatal heart attacks. The study confirms findings of previous lab studies in animals and humans. The primary fatty acids in olive oil are oleic, linoleic and linolenic acid. Oleic acid is monosaturated and makes up 55-85% of olive oil. Linoleic is polyunsaturated and makes up about 9%. Linolenic, which is polyunsaturated, makes up 0-1.5%. Warning: Don't pour on the creamy ranch or gorgonzola dressing, they probably have the opposite effect as they are high in saturated fats.