Olive Oil May Protect Seniors Against Stroke

By Caroline J. Beck
July 01, 2011

The many health benefits of olive oil should come as no surprise to those that follow a “Mediterranean” style diet. But a recent study conducted by researchers in France provided further and substantial support for the concept that consumption of olive oil may specifically help protect against strokes.

University of Bordeaux scientists examined the medical records and olive oil consumption of 7,625 participants over six years, which included people age 65 and older from the French cities of Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier. None of the participants had any previous history of stroke. Olive oil use was classified as “no use”, “moderate use” or “intensive use”. About 23 percent used none, 40 percent were moderate users (cooking with it or using it as a dressing or with bread) and about 37 percent were intensive users (using it in cooking and as a dressing or with bread).

After adjustments for normal sociodemographic and health factors such as diet, body mass and physical activity, the results were significant. Compared to those who never used olive oil, those with intensive use had a 41% lower risk of stroke. According to the report, the results suggest that high olive oil consumption can play an important protective role against the risk of stroke in older people.

With this study, the merits of including olive oil as a staple of a healthy diet continue to gain validity. The American Heart Association identifies stroke as the third leading cause of death in the United States following heart disease and cancer. In numerous prior scientific studies, olive oil has been proven to have a beneficial effect on heart disease and cancer, as well as a number of other medical conditions, including high cholesterol, diabetes, and arthritis.

Olive oil has long been a major component of the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in healthy fats (like olive oil and nuts), plus whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish and chicken. Red meat and wine are consumed in moderate amounts, and regular physical activity is part of the regimen as well.

"Our research suggests that a new set of dietary recommendations should be issued to prevent stroke in people 65 and older," said study author Cecilia Samieri. "Stroke is so common in older people and olive oil would be an inexpensive and easy way to help prevent it."

The results of the study by the University of Bordeaux and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research were published in the online issue of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.