Replacing margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and dairy fat with olive oil was associated with a lower mortality risk.
Consuming more than 7 grams (>1/2 tablespoon) of olive oil per day is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, cancer mortality, neurodegenerative disease mortality, and respiratory disease mortality, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in January. The study found that replacing about 10 grams/day of margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil is associated with a lower risk of mortality as well.
“Our findings support current dietary recommendations to increase the intake of olive oil and other unsaturated vegetable oils,” said Marta Guasch-Ferré, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health - the study’s lead author.
“Clinicians should be counseling patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health. Our study helps make more specific recommendations that will be easier for patients to understand and hopefully implement into their diets.”
This is the first long-term study on olive oil consumption and mortality in the U.S. Most previous research on olive oil and health has focused on populations from Europe and the Mediterranean, where olive oil consumption is higher.
Researchers analyzed 60,582 women and 31,801 men who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at the study baseline in 1990. During the next 28 years, the diet was assessed by a questionnaire every four years asking how often, on average, participants consumed specific foods, types of fats, and oils, as well as which brand or type of oils they used for cooking and added in the previous year.
Olive oil consumption was calculated from the sum of three items in the questionnaire: olive oil used for salad dressings, olive oil added to food or bread, and olive oil used for baking and frying at home.
Olive oil consumption was categorized as follows:
Never or <1 time per month
>0 to ≤4.5 grams/day (>0 to ≤1 teaspoon)
>4.5 to ≤7 grams/day (>1 teaspoon to ≤1/2 tablespoon)
>7 grams/day (>1/2 tablespoon)
Over the course of 28 years, there were 36,856 deaths. Participants with higher olive oil consumption were often more physically active, had Southern European or Mediterranean ancestry, were less likely to smoke, and had a greater consumption of fruits and vegetables compared to those with lower olive oil consumption. The average consumption of total olive oil in the highest category was about 9 grams/day at baseline and included 5% of the study participants.
When researchers compared those who rarely or never consumed olive oil, those in the highest consumption category had a 19% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, 17% lower risk of cancer mortality, 29% lower risk of neurodegenerative mortality, and 18% lower risk of respiratory mortality.
Compared to margarine, butter, mayonnaise, or dairy fat, the use of olive oil was associated with a lower risk of total mortality, although no significant risk reduction was observed when the use of olive oil was compared to the use of other vegetable oils.
“Clinicians should be counseling patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health,” Dr. Guasch-Ferré said. “Our study helps make specific recommendations that will be easy for patients to understand and hopefully implement into their diets.”
Reference: “Consumption of Olive Oil and Risk of Total and Cause-Specific Mortality Among U.S. Adults” 10 January 2022, Journal of the American College of Cardiology.