By now most of us have heard that there are “good fats” and “bad fats,” but how do we decipher what they are and how they help or hurt us? A recent multi-city study conducted in France on older adults may just shed some light on this. It appears that olive oil, rich in oleic acid, may be associated with a lower incidence of strokes in the 60+ set. Considering that cerebrovascular events now exceed coronary heart disease in older adults, increasing olive oil consumption may just be the protection we require.
Olive oil contains 80 percent monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and 20 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). The primary MUFA in olive oil is oleic acid. The study reported the higher the blood plasma oleic acid concentration, the higher olive oil consumption — both being associated with reducing risks of strokes. MUFAs, such as oleic acid are important to incorporate into the diet because they are unsaturated fatty acids (liquid at room temperature) and have vascular protective properties, including lowering cholesterol, deceasing risk of heart attacks, and lowering blood pressure. In fact consumption of olive oil and oleic acid showed a 41 percent reduction in stroke risk in intensive users versus those who never used olive oil.
For those of us who are older and at risk for stroke, and even those who are younger but want to get a jump start on their good heart health, start cooking with olive oil. Next time you make salad dressing try using olive oil, drizzle some over your next pasta dish, make some bruscetta, or pan fry your favorite ingredients together with olive oil. It’s a tasty way to a healthy future.