Add this to the list of olive oil benefits: It may help prevent strokes.
A new study in the journal Neurology, published by the American Academy of Neurology, found that people 65 and older who included olive oil to their diets had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke compared with those who don’t regularly consume the polyphenol-rich oil.
The study looked at the medical records of more than 7,500 seniors living in three French cities, where primarily extra-virgin olive is available. None of the participants had a history of stroke. The participants described their olive-oil consumption as “no use,” “moderate use,” or “intensive use”—using the oil for cooking, as dressing, and for dipping bread.
After five years, the researchers documented 148 stroke cases. Accounting for other factors, such as overall diet, physical activity, and body-mass index, they determined that participants who consumed a lot of olive oil had a significantly reduced risk for stroke.
Olive oil, considered a healthy dietary fat, has previously been linked with reducing the risk for heart disease, lowering cholesterol, and controlling insulin levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. Though researchers aren’t sure exactly why olive oil might be having these effects, it may be as simple as a “substitution effect”—swapping artery-clogging trans and saturated fats for the heart-heathy monosaturated fats in olive oil—the study author Dr. Celia Samieri told HealthDay.
Current dietary guidelines encourage moderation when it comes to olive oil. In fact, oils don’t appear at all on the USDA’s new MyPlate dietary guidelines; the agency states on its Web site that “oils are not a food group, but they provide essential nutrients” and that “some Americans consume enough oil in the foods they eat.” For those that don’t, the USDA recommends that men consume 6 to 7 teaspoons daily, depending on age, and women 5 to 6. Kids should get 3 to 6, depending on age and gender.