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Eat olive oil to keep your engine running longer

Reviewed by our expert panel
olive oil in a sishe with a couple of olives and an olive leaf

A regular intake of olive oil may help you live longer, reducing the risk of dying from a variety of diseases – from cancer to heart disease.

It’s widely known that consuming olive oil has protective effects against cardiovascular disease (CVD), but new US research shows eating at least half a tablespoon of it, daily, may also lower your risk of dying from cancer and neurodegenerative or respiratory diseases.

And replacing butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat with their equivalent amount in olive oil also appears to reduce risk of dying from those diseases.

Interestingly, it wasn’t just olive oil that had the protective effect. When researchers substituted other vegetable oils, such as canola, sunflower and soy, for olive oil the mortality risk was still lowered.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, followed the diets of around 90,000 women and men from 1990 to 2018. Those who had the highest consumption of olive oil had a 19 per cent lower risk of CVD mortality, 17 per cent lower risk of cancer mortality, 29 per cent lower risk of dying of neurodegenerative disease and 18 per cent lower risk of respiratory disease mortality, when compared with people who didn’t eat olive oil.

Study limitations

The study was observational so can only show an association, not cause and effect.

Olive oil a Mediterranean diet essential

At Healthy Food Guide, we strongly recommend a Mediterranean-style eating pattern. This means eating mostly plant foods – vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains – opting for healthy fats, such as olive oil, moderate dairy consumption and enjoying small portions of meat no more than a few times a week.

If you want to add more olive oil to your diet, using it in a dressing or drizzling it over bread, instead of butter, are great ways to start.

First published: Jan 2022

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