Heart Attack: The Best Vegetable Oil to Reduce Risk

Plastic bottle of vegetable sunflower olive oil isolated on wooden kitchen background

Diet is key. A heart attack is a serious medical emergency when the blood flow to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually due to cholesterol buildup. This deadly mechanism is under the influence of heart disease. Fortunately, you can prevent a heart attack by changing unhealthy aspects of your lifestyle. Diet is key, and some foods have been highlighted for their heart-healthy properties.

According to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions, olive oil may help reduce the risk of heart disease. The study also showed that it is useful as a substitute for butter or mayonnaise.

“Previous studies have linked high olive oil consumption to improved cardiovascular health, especially in Mediterranean countries where olive oil consumption is much higher,” said lead author Marta Guasch-Ferre.

“Our goal was to find out if increased olive oil consumption is beneficial for heart health in the US population,” said Guasch-Ferre, a researcher at Harvard University’s Department of Nutrition. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

The study involved 63,867 women and 35,512 men from 1990 to 2014. At the beginning of the study, all participants were free of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. Every four years, they answered questionnaires about their diet and lifestyle. The researchers found that those who ate more than half a tablespoon of olive oil daily had a 15 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Replacing one teaspoon of butter, margarine, mayonnaise, or dairy fat with the same amount of olive oil reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by five percent and coronary heart disease by seven percent. However, consuming more olive oil did not affect the risk of stroke.

Although olive oil was found to be more beneficial than butter and margarine, it did not provide more benefits than other vegetable oils such as corn, canola, safflower, and soybean.

“One interesting study shows that although olive oil was better than most animal fats and margarine, it was not superior to vegetable oils in the population studied,” said Guasch-Ferre. This means that replacing any type of animal fat with vegetable oils, including olive oil as well as other oils, can be a good strategy for improving cardiovascular health.

The researchers noted that many kinds of margarine contained significant amounts of trans fatty acids when the study began in 1990, so the results may not apply to vegetable margarine available now. The results were also observational, which means they do not prove causation.

However, small interventional studies have shown that replacing animal fats with olive oil has a beneficial effect on blood fat levels. “Further research is needed to examine the mechanisms underlying this association, as well as the effects of other vegetable oils on heart health,” said Guasch-Ferre.

Symptoms of a heart attack may include:

  • Chest pain – it may feel like the chest is being squeezed or compressed by a heavy object, and the pain may spread from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms, and back.
  • Confused breathing
  • Feeling weak or dizzy, or both
  • An overwhelming sense of anxiety.
  • It is important to note that not everyone experiences severe chest pain.
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Written by Emma Miller

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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