Be young at heart with olives

Years ago, renowned cardiologist Serge Renaud found that heart attack patients eating a typical Cretan diet of fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, and olive oil had a seventy per cent lower incidence of heart attack and death after two years than other patients.

More recently, a 2016 study of over a thousand people with cardiovascular disease found that those with the most points on the ‘Mediterranean Diet Score’ had a 37 per cent lower risk of fatal heart attack. Researchers commented: ‘the major contributors to mortality risk reduction were a higher consumption of vegetables, fish, fruits, nuts and monounsaturated fatty acids — that means olive oil.’ 1

And in a new groundbreaking study, it was found that adding just two dessert spoonfuls of olive oil to the daily diet not only lowered cholesterol levels but reduced overall risk of heart disease in just three weeks. In this study, rather than just measuring cholesterol levels – which are only one factor in heart health – the researchers measured ‘proteomic biomarkers’ in the urine, which give a more accurate picture of cardiovascular disease risk. It was found that both extra-virgin olive oil and ordinary olive oil had a marked beneficial effect, due to their content of oleic acid. 2

It’s never too late to start adding olive oil and other Mediterranean elements to your diet. In an article entitled ‘Nuts, olive oil and vegetables are the best heart medicine’, cardiologist Aseem Malhotra writes that ‘adopting a Mediterranean diet after suffering a heart attack is actually more powerful than aspirin, statins and even heart stents…and without the side effects.’ 3

By writer and nutritionist Sally Beare


  1. de Gaetano, Giovanni (2016). Higher adherence to Mediterranean diet is associated with lower risk of overall mortality in subjects with cardiovascular disease: prospective results from the MOLI-SANI study. Presented at the ESC Congress in Rome on August 28.
  2. Silva, S et al (2014). Impact of a 6-wk olive oil supplementation in healthy adults on urinary proteomic biomarkers of coronary artery disease, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes (types 1 and 2): a randomized, parallel, controlled, double-blind study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 101(1): 44-54
  3. Malhotra, Aseem (2016). Nuts, olive oil and vegetables are the best heart medicine. The Times, July 22, 2016.