Olive oil intake linked to decreased cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and overall mortality in Italian adults.

Olive oil intake linked to decreased cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and overall mortality in Italian adults.

The regular consumption of olive oil is associated with a reduction in mortality from cancer and cardiovascular diseases. This was revealed by a recent study conducted by the joint platform of the Umberto Veronesi Foundation and Neuromed, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

The research, conducted on nearly 23,000 Italian adults over a span of 12 years, found that those who consumed more olive oil had a lower risk of death from any cause, particularly from cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The benefits are attributed to its high content of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, which can help protect cells from damage and reduce inflammation. "The benefits of consuming olive oil are widely documented in the literature, especially in relation to cardiovascular health," says Emilia Ruggiero, the lead author of the study and a researcher funded by the Umberto Veronesi Foundation.

"However," Ruggiero continues, "little is still known about the effects of olive oil in relation to cancer, and most of the available data comes from non-Mediterranean populations. That's why we wanted to investigate the role of this key food in the Mediterranean diet also in relation to cancer mortality."

For Marialaura Bonaccio, co-principal investigator of the joint platform, the study's results confirm the benefit of regular olive oil consumption for cardiovascular health, associated with a reduction of one-quarter of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases. But the most interesting finding is that, compared to consuming less than one and a half tablespoons, daily consumption of olive oil in amounts equal to or greater than three tablespoons is associated with a similar reduction (23%) in cancer mortality risk.

"These data suggest very interesting hypotheses," adds Maria Benedetta Donati, principal investigator. "The reduction in cancer mortality seems to be partially explained by an improvement in the profile of some risk factors typically linked to cardiovascular diseases. It is a hypothesis that fascinates many researchers: different chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart attack, could share risk factors and molecular mechanisms. In other words, there may be a 'common soil' from which these diseases originate."

In addition to reducing mortality from cancer and cardiovascular diseases, olive oil boasts numerous other health benefits, confirmed by various scientific studies. For example, according to a report from Harvard University, olive oil is rich in polyphenols, plant compounds with powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce chronic inflammation, which is the root of many diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, olive oil is also a good source of antioxidants, which combat free radicals in the body—unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to ageing and diseases.

Some research conducted by the Mayo Clinic in New York also suggests that olive oil can help protect brain health and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Additionally, it contains compounds that improve bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Finally, it is essential for weight management and the prevention of obesity.

Study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition — Image source: Freepik