The results showed that rich virgin olive oil used in the diet protects against atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition where plaques build up in arteries and cause blockages greatly affecting flow of blood and oxygen, which ultimately leads to heart attacks and strokes. The most hazardous effect of atherosclerosis is the rupturing of blood vessels due to the unmanageable size of plague buildup. The rupture then leads to blood clots that block blood flow and cause heart attack.
The scientists conducted a random test by recruiting around 300 volunteers from PREDIMED Study, with an average age of 66 years, after a 1 year intervention period. The scientists did not conduct a straightforward Mediterranean diet test but in fact they compared the effects of two Mediterranean diet plans.
They compared an olive oil rich Mediterranean diet , a Mediterranean rich in nuts and a low-fat control diet. The scientists were looking for the diets’ HDL reversal effects on cholesterol, apart from HDL’s antioxidant properties and their effects on vasodilation in humans. Miscellaneous properties of HDL includ resistance against oxidative radicals, main lipid and protein composition, size of HDL particles and the extent to which HDL particles are oxidized.
The overall results showed that both kinds of Mediterranean diets showed cholesterol reversal and improvement in HDL particle size.
Virgin olive oil Mediterranean diet improved HDL ability to esterify cholesterol, enhanced HDL vasodilation in blood vessels andreduced cholesterol ester transfer protein activity to a much greater extent when compared to Mediterranean diet enriched with nuts.
This study showed that Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil is a safe and efficacious diet plan in patients suffering from atherosclerosis. High levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL) more commonly referred to as bad cholesterol or trans fats known as triglycerides are linked to a higher risk of certain cardiovascular diseases and induces a great deficit on heart health.
HDL, more commonly referred to as good cholesterol, helps remove excess LDL from the bloodstream and improves cardiovascular health, reduces impact of atherosclerosis and decreases the frequency of heart attacks.
The study had its limitation as well. All the three diets are generally considered very healthy so it is difficult to assess the exact advantages of each diet and the mechanism of how each diet worked, according to the scientists.
However, Mediterranean, generally is considered a very healthy diet. According to previous studies, the diet helps reduce cardiovascular disease risk by 6 to 16 percent.
Dr. Daniel Rader of the University of Pennsylvania wrote in an email to Reuters, “We know the Mediterranean diet reduces risk of heart disease but still don’t know exactly why. There is probably more than one reason, and this study suggests that one mechanism might be that the Mediterranean diet improves the function of HDL.”
Considered bare-bones and one of the healthiest diet in the world, the Mediterranean diet consists of daily intake of, fruits, vegetables, unprocessed grains, legumes and some cereals. It also focuses on consumption of proteins especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish and seafood, weekly intake of dairy and poultry meats, and on certain occasions, consumption of fried food and red meat.
Of all the ingredients, olive oil is the most crucial component of a Mediterranean diet, and rightly so, as shown by this study.
Not only is Mediterranean diet good for heart health, it also helps fight obesity and enhances weight loss.
A Mediterranean diet relies heavily on vegetables and olive oil along with restricted consumption of meat based proteins and leads to several health benefits. The fats sourced from greens, which are abundantly found in a Mediterranean diet are ‘unsaturated fats’ known for their LDL cholesterol fighting ability.
Olive oil is especially naturally supplemented with monounsaturated fats and polyphenols which also fight against free radicals in the system. It is often believed that foods having high level of fats are more likely to increase body weight. This perception has led many to wrongly avoid high-fat foods when trying to lose weight.
After analysing this study it is safe to assume we need to make wiser choices about the type, and not quantity, of fats we consume.