There are too many diets that promise too many things today. If you actually decide you want to get healthy it is increasingly difficult to know what diet to follow. Should you choose paleo, low carb, intermittent fasting, vegan, low fat, or something else entirely. Based on the research we have seen there is only one diet that appears at the top of the pile time and time again, since before internet fads were a thing. That is the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is comprised of unrefined, plant-based foods with a lot of fish and a lot of olive oil. While it has been known for some time that this diet is healthy, recent studies have analyzed the impact of olive oil on diets outside Europe.
A recent study that analyzed the long term health benefit of olive oil using US data since 1990 found that eating ½ a tablespoon or more a day of olive oil lowers the dangers of heart disease by 15% and coronary disease by 21%. This marks the first time that a study has conducted this analysis and proved this positive relationship outside of the Mediterranean region.
This does not mean that you should start taking a spoonful of olive oil every day. Instead, it appears to suggest that switching from meat-based fast to olive oil results in a strong health increase. Olive oil allows you to replace unsaturated fats like butter and mayonnaise with an oil that is high in Omega 3 and has cholesterol and anti-inflammatory benefits.
It was interesting to note that the study also suggested vegetable fats are a good substitution as well and could not find a statistically significant difference in the benefits between olive oil and vegetable oils. While there were positive findings for corn and safflower oil, the researchers admitted that more work was required to understand the true health consequences of these oils.
The study appears to suggest that all fats are not created equal meaning that these low or high-fat diets are too simplistic. It is not a question of quantity of fats, it is about quality. If you are eating the right fats they can actually be good for your heart health.
The study is really useful as it clearly highlights the benefit of olive oil over animal fats. However, it does create many more questions so further studies will be required. One of the big topics in the olive oil world is standard olive oil versus extra virgin olive oil. It is said that extra virgin olive oil has a great number of polyphenols and is supposed to cause lower inflammation. The study was not large enough to split the different types of olive oils out and to learn the benefits of each so this will require further investigation. The same is true for the wide variety of different vegetable oils. While they showed positive results in this study further tests are required.
The other area that requires further action is in the causal relationship of all these positive benefits. This study was simply observational so it does not prove that olive oil is causing this benefit. As already mentioned it may be that we are removing a bad thing and replacing it with something that is simply net positive. It may also be that people who change for olive oil change other parts of their diet as well and start eating healthier. People who start eating healthier often take part in more exercise as well, so there are a huge number of external factors that may also be showing these positive results.
While more work is required to understand exactly how good olive oil is and why it is so good, it is clear that it has a positive impact. For this reason, we recommend switching to olive oil today but if budget is a concern then there are many vegetable oils that could also be used. Whatever you decide it is clear that it is time to say goodbye to the butter.