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Olive oil and cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in industrialized countries. Numerous studies show that atherosclerosis is closely related to dietary habits, lifestyle, and some aspects of economic development. The progression of atherosclerosis depends on many factors: the main ones are high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cigarette smoking.

Olive oil and cardiovascular disease
Olive oil and cardiovascular disease

Ultimately, high-quality, high-polyphenol extra virgin olive oil is incredibly healthy. Because of its powerful antioxidants, it benefits your heart, brain, joints, and more.


Atherosclerosis is the condition in which cholesterol-rich spots (known as atheromas) build up on the walls of the arteries. This prevents blood from reaching the tissues and hinders the functioning of vital organs such as the heart and brain.


When the heart is affected, atherosclerosis causes angina and heart attacks, and increases the risk of sudden cardiac death. When the brain is attacked, cerebral thrombosis occurs, leading to muscle paralysis, cognitive loss and the risk of dementia. The aorta and leg arteries can also be damaged, leading to pain and difficulty walking and the risk of necrosis and gangrene.

If a patch of fat bursts, for example due to an increase in blood pressure, the small arteries in the patch also burst. This triggers a reaction in which certain cells found in the blood known as platelets or thrombocytes join together to form a thrombus or blood clot.

The blood clot travels through the arteries, but if it's larger than the vessel, it causes a blockage. Since the blood cannot penetrate, the tissue or organ dies.


Olive oil has been shown to prevent blood clot formation and platelet aggregation. It has been observed that by preventing excessive blood clotting, a diet rich in olive oil can mitigate the effect of fatty foods on promoting blood clot formation, contributing to a low incidence of heart failure in countries where olive oil is the main fat consumed.


Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in foods of animal origin. Diets containing a large amount of animal fats increase blood cholesterol, which is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Fats (triglycerides) and cholesterol are transported in the blood by lipoproteins. Cholesterol bound to low-density lipoproteins [very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL)] is atherogenic and damages the vessel walls. In later stages, this can lead to an acute heart attack. This cholesterol is known as “bad cholesterol”. Cholesterol bound to high-density lipoproteins (known as HDL cholesterol), on the other hand, is called “good cholesterol” because it protects against the onset of cardiovascular disease. The high-density lipoproteins remove free cholesterol from cells, esterify it, and transport it to the liver, where it is excreted in the bile.


Olive oil lowers total blood cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. At the same time, it does not change (and can even increase) HDL cholesterol levels, which plays a protective role and prevents the formation of fatty spots, thereby stimulating the excretion of low-density lipoproteins.

The positive effect of olive oil consumption on cardiovascular disease has been demonstrated in primary prevention, where it reduces the risk of developing the disease, and in secondary prevention, where it prevents recurrence after a first coronary event.

Research is currently showing the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet in preventing secondary coronary events and the positive impact of olive oil on depression and mood associated with such events. These findings are very important given the high prevalence of depression in today's world and the great risk it poses in recurrent heart disease.

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