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Can olive oil really prevent heart attacks?

Recent studies have looked at the fundamental process behind heart attacks – the development of blood clots which block the coronary arteries. Several studies in Mediterranean countries have shown that the incidence of heart disease is lower than would be expected by blood cholesterol levels. So, many conclude that this anomaly can be explained by the high amount of olive oil in the diet in this region. But what is it about olive oil that could serve to lower the incidence of heart attack?

Researchers at the Centre for Advanced Food Studies, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Frederiksberg, Denmark decided to see if it was due to olive oil affecting the blood’s basic ability to form clots. Less effective clotting could mean a lower risk of heart attack. They compared the effects of virgin olive oil with those of rapeseed and sunflower oils on blood coagulation factor VII, which is a key factor in blood clot formation. Eighteen healthy young men were put on a diet enriched with olive oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil for a period of 3 weeks. Levels of Factor VII were significantly lower in those men who consumed olive oil compared to both the sunflower or canola oil. The study’s conclusion was that olive oil may lower the pro coagulant tendency of meals high in fats which could serve to contribute to a lower incidence of heart attacks in Mediterranean countries. Regardless, it’s a pretty tasty way to get healthier!