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Olive oil may protect against strokes
June 15th, 2011
04:46 PM ET

Olive oil may protect against strokes

A diet high in olive oil may help protect older people against strokes, which are the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. The findings are in a study published in the journal Neurology.

A stroke occurs when an artery within the brain, or leading to the brain, becomes blocked by a clot or bursts. The brain becomes deprived of blood and oxygen carried in the arteries and begins to die.

Strokes become more common as we age – stroke risk doubles for each decade of life after age 55, according to the American Heart Association.

University of Bordeaux researchers examined the medical records and olive oil consumption of 7,625 study participants, which included people age 65 and older from the  French cities of Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier. None of the participants had any history of stroke when the study began. Olive oil use was classified as “no use”, “moderate use” – meaning using olive oil for cooking or as dressing or with bread, or “intensive use” which means olive oil was used for cooking and as dressing or with bread.

Participants had follow-up exams at 2, 4, and six years and stroke incidents were recorded and verified. 148 stokes occurred after slightly more than five years.
Compared to those who didn’t use olive oil, people who had “intensive use” of olive oil had a 41% lower risk for stroke.

Many previous studies have reported health benefits from eating a Mediterranean-type of diet. "Olive oil is a component of the Mediterranean Diet which has been shown to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease and stroke. It can be included in a healthy eating plan as one of the oils that contains the least amount of saturated or bad fat,“ according to Dr. Ralph Sacco, President of the American Heart Association.

However, while numerous studies have linked the eating pattern to health benefits including lower rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease, Dr. Larry B. Goldstein of the Duke [University] Stroke Center, and a spokesman for the American Heart Association, is quick to note that the findings of the Neurology study show only an association between lower stroke risk and eating a diet high in olive oil, not proof that a diet high in olive oil will lower stroke risk. “There’s no reason you shouldn’t use olive oil paired with other heathy lifestyle behaviors including a diet high in fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and not smoking cigarettes,” which Goldstein says are known to reduce stroke risk by 80%.

Eatocracy: Why Chef Cathy Whims loves olive oil


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.