Can Olive Oil Benefit Heart Health?

Mediterranean people have grown and used Olives – the fruit of the olive tree, for thousands of years.

The people of the island of Crete have been proven to enjoy the best health of any population group on earth, and it is no coincidence that they also annually consume the most olive oil per person, of any country in the world. A memorable quote from a 1948 article stated that ‘… a foreign visitor gets the impression that Cretan food literally floats in olive oil’.

Cretans have best health – consume most olive oil

It is believed to be responsible for the good health and longevity of the people who consume it, and it plays a major role in the modern Mediterranean diet too. Medical studies around the world have shown that olive oil offers a unique natural heart health protection, and increased chance of living a very long life.

Here are some examples of the traditional ways in which healthy fresh food is combined with generous amounts of olive oil :-

  • Boiled Artichokes drenched in olive oil
  • Leafy green vegetables drizzled with large amounts of olive oil
  • Barley Bread dipped in olive oil
  • Pork cooked in olive oil
It is interesting to note that any other types of fat are rarely used in Crete

The average adult consumption of olive oil is over 30 litres per person per year. This compares to virtually nil consumption in some Northern countries such as Germany.

Cretan diet produces lowest heart disease rates

The Cretan diet is now recognised as being responsible for the lowest rates of heart disease and cancer in the world, and this is believed to be largely due to their high consumption of olive oil. Evidence for this dates back to the 1950′s when scientific studies concluded that the Cretan population rarely suffered any instances of any cancers or cancer-related illnesses.

This discovery was initially, and is still greeted with surprise by foreign travelers from the United States and Northern Europe, whose dietary habits are quite different from those in Southern Europe, where fat consumption has traditionally been from animal derived fats. More recently, excessive quantities of any type of fat has been discouraged as it has been linked to coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Here are some interesting heart disease statistics from the 1950′s before the modern western diet had had an opportunity to infiltrate the historical dietary habits of various widespread worlwide populations :

Deaths per 100,000 inhabitants from coronary heart disease:

  • Finland – 466
  • United States – 424
  • Holland – 347
  • Italy – 200
  • Corfu – 149
  • Yugoslavia – 145
  • Japan – 64
  • Crete – 9

These statistics are truly staggering, as even the mighty, healthy fish eating Japanese, still managed over seven times the heart disease rate of the humble Cretans. By comparison, deaths in the technologically advanced United States peaked at over FORTY times that of Crete.

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