Olive oil appears to be able to protect blood vessels from the harmful effects of particulate matter and air pollution, thereby preventing cardiovascular problems. In a study, American scientists found that olive oil protected the test subjects from the usual consequences of environmental oxidative stress and can thus contribute to the prevention of heart problems and arteriosclerosis.
Air pollution damages the cardiovascular system
Free radicals are aggressive molecules that can attack every single cell and lead to so-called oxidative stress.
The damage caused by the free radicals could not be more diverse: Oxidative stress increases the risk of various diseases, including cardiovascular problems and cancer. Not even the genetic material in the cells is safe from free radicals.
A large part of the oxidative stress that we are exposed to every day comes from the air: fine dust enters the body through polluted breathing air and weakens the endothelial function, among other things.
The inner wall of the blood vessels is called the endothelium. Their pathological change plays a role in the development of high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis, for example.
Some foods contain antioxidants – substances that render free radicals harmless. These include polyphenols and vitamins C and E.
Olive oil has an antioxidant effect
One food that has long been known for its antioxidant properties is olive oil. Krill oil, OPC, and astaxanthin are also considered effective helpers in fighting free radicals.
The team around Dr. Haiyan Tong of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US Environmental Protection Agency) now investigated to what extent olive and fish oils can actually prevent the effects of oxidative stress on the endothelium.
To do this, they divided 42 healthy adult study participants into three groups.
One group was supplemented with three grams of olive oil daily for four weeks, and another group took the same amount of fish oil. The third and last was the control group, these participants received no supplementation.
Olive oil against fine dust pollution
At the end of the four weeks, the participants were exposed to air mixed with free radicals – i.e. fine dust – in a controlled test chamber.
The scientists then checked the blood values of the participants. With the help of an ultrasound device, they also examined the endothelial function of the test subjects.
Immediately after exposure to the polluted air, the blood vessels of the participants who had not received any supplements or fish oil were only able to adjust to the blood flow to a limited extent. This effect was much weaker in those who received olive oil supplementation.
According to the blood analysis, olive oil was also able to significantly reduce the risk of thrombosis. Fish oil, on the other hand, had no effect at all.
Olive oil prevents stroke
In addition, olive oil also helps prevent stroke, according to a 2011 study of French seniors.
Over 7,500 participants informed Dr. Cécilia Samieri and her team from the Université Bordeaux and the French research institute Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale about their olive oil consumption.
The scientists followed the study participants for five years. They found that the risk of stroke decreased by forty percent when participants regularly used olive oil in both cooking and salad dressings.
Olive oil inhibits inflammatory genes
A possible explanation for the beneficial effects of olive oil on human health was provided by Francisco Perez-Jimenez and his colleagues from Spain’s Universidad de Córdoba.
They found that olive oil altered the activity of 98 genes in patients with metabolic syndrome. This also included various genes that promote inflammatory processes in the body and thus increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, among other things.
In order to benefit as much as possible from the positive effects of olive oil, you should make sure that you buy high-quality virgin or extra-virgin olive oil from organic farming.