Study found that virgin olive oil is better for heart health than "non-virgin" olive oil
Researchers from five European countries, led by a Spanish researcher, studied 200 healthy male participants and assigned them to a diet with three different varieties of olive oil for three weeks. Blood glucose, cholesterol, oxidative damage as well as serum antioxidant levels were analyzed. Researchers found that a diet rich in virgin olive oil higher in polyphenol content does the most to improve the good HDL cholesterol as compared to processed "non-virgin" refined olive oils. The results of this study were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in September 2006.
Editor's Note - Olive oil is more than good fat
With the increasing popularity of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, olive oil has become one of the most studied cooking oil. Rich in the good monounsaturated fats, olive oil has been identified as a heart disease preventative as it lowers cholesterol. This new study revealed that not only the high monounsaturated fat content found in olive oil is responsible for the potential heart benefits. Virgin olive oil also has a polyphenol compound that may play a role in heart health as well. Polyphenol, a type of antioxidant, may protect our body from free radical damage. The more "virgin" or less processed the olive oil, the more polyphenol compound it contains. This may explain why virgin olive oil appears to offer more heart-healthy than non-virgin olive oils.
This study is a rather small study involving only 200 individuals. Therefore, do not make any conclusion yet about virgin olive oil being better than refined olive oil. The lead scientist of this study cautioned that larger clinical trials are needed to investigate virgin olive oil and its health benefits.
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