I am in conflict with those that say extra virgin olive oil is bad. And don’t get me wrong: I don’t think we should pour it over food like water. It is oil, and we should respect that and use it appropriately, which is moderately. But used moderately, I think it is very good, and I use it moderately myself- every day. My opponents point out that even olive oil has some saturated fat- but I don’t consider that a bad thing. They point out that olive oil has the same caloric density as other fats, ignoring the fact that olive oil has been shown to be “thermogenic” and not inclined to induce bodily fattiness. There are plenty of people who use olive oil regularly and stay lean. And they point to some studies that they consider indicative of a negative effect from olive oil. Of course, they just ignore the many studies that show positive effects.

But, just last month a study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition about olive oil which had a truly impressive finding.

It found that people who ate olive oil had a lower risk of dying.

You have to realize that we can talk about specific factors like HDL, LDL, endothelial function, etc. but the bottom line always comes down to one thing: staying alive. So, when you have a study in which a group of people stayed alive better, that’s as good as it gets when it comes to outcomes. And that’s why I suspect that the opponents of olive oil are not going to talk about this study.  

A study published online on May 30, 2012 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found an association between greater olive oil intake and a lower risk of dying over an average of 13.4 years of follow-up.

Spanish researchers analyzed data from 40,622 men and women residing in Spain who were aged 29 to 69 years upon recruitment to the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Spain). Interview responses concerning foods and drinks typically consumed were analyzed for olive oil and caloric intake.

Over a follow-up period beginning in 1992-1993 and ending 2006-2009, there were 416 deaths from cardiovascular disease, 956 cancer deaths and 417 deaths from other causes. Cause of death was not determined for 126 subjects. Participants whose olive oil intake was among the top one-fourth of participants had a 26 percent lower risk of dying of any cause and a 44 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who did not consume olive oil. While there appeared to be no protection conferred by olive oil against the risk of dying from cancer, the risk of mortality from causes other than cancer or heart disease was reduced by 38 percent for those whose olive oil intake was greatest. However, the authors remark that there is evidence that olive oil may be protective against specific types of cancer, particularly breast cancer.

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E and phenolic compounds such as hydroxytyrosol, which is one of the most powerful antioxidants known, all of which may play a role in the protection against chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease. The authors note that olive oil has been shown to improve systemic inflammation and glycemic control in randomized clinical trials.

"To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study to show that olive oil consumption reduces the risk of mortality in a healthy Mediterranean population," the authors announce. "Our findings provide further evidence on the effects that one of the key components of the Mediterranean diet has on mortality and support the need to preserve the habitual use of olive oil within this healthy dietary pattern.”