Studies have found a direct link between olive oil consumption and lower risk of cardiovascular disease. For an article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers studied 61,181 women and 31,797 men without heart disease at the outset of the study. Their diet was assessed with food questionnaires at the beginning and every four years thereafter for a period of 24 years.
Compared with nonconsumers of olive oil, those with a higher intake (greater than 0.5 tablespoons per day or greater than 7 grams per day) had a 14 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and an 18 percent lower risk of heart disease. Replacing 5 grams per day of margarine, butter, mayonnaise, or dairy fat with an equal amount of olive oil was associated with a 5 percent to 7 percent lower risk of both cardiovascular and heart disease. In a subset of participants, higher levels of olive oil intake were associated with lower levels of circulating inflammatory biomarkers.
We eat far too much adulterated fat in the U.S. Vegetable oils from soy, canola, and corn are the oils of choice for most Americans. Unfortunately, there are many problems with vegetable oils. First, they are polyunsaturated, which means they are very unstable when exposed to high heat. When this occurs, these oils become hydrogenated, making them capable of gumming up the cell membranes and causing a cascade of inflammatory problems. And in fact, most vegetable oils are actually hydrogenated in their manufacturing process.
You should avoid these oils. Olive oil is a better choice when cooking at low heat or eating cold. It is a monounsaturated fat and cannot tolerate high temperatures as well. Coconut or palm oil are better choices when a higher cooking temperature is required.
More information about cooking with fats can be found in my book, The Skinny on Fats.
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