We know that extra virgin olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties(1) and is a key part of the Mediterranean diet, a diet which is heavily associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and obesity(2).
Now, an Italian study published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes has shown that extra virgin olive oil itself may have a positive effect on blood sugar levels and bad cholesterol after meals(3).
Researchers say this could help explain why the Mediterranean diet is linked to such a decreased risk of heart disease.
Limit Dairy and Red Meat
Study author Francesco Violi, a researcher at Sapienza University in Rome, lead the study, which involved testing the effects of adding extra virgin olive oil to a Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet features fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish, with very limited consumption of dairy and red meat.
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) was compared to corn oil. Blood tests done after study participants consumed a meal prepared with extra virgin olive oil showed that, compared to the group whose meals were prepared with corn oil, the olive oil group’s blood sugar levels rose significantly less.
Results Are In Line With Previous Research
The results of this study are consistent with previous research which has linked extra virgin olive oil to elevated levels of insulin, a hormone that helps convert glucose into energy according to Violi.
What is unclear, however, is why the blood tests showed that participants who consumed the olive oil meals had lower levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL – also known as “bad” cholesterol, which can build up in blood vessels and lead to heart disease, blood clots, and atherosclerosis. In that area, more research is needed.
However, the researchers on the study believe that theirs is among the first to link extra virgin olive oil, as used in the Mediterranean diet, to lower blood sugar and LDL cholesterol after meal consumption.
Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil In Your Diet
This study provides many people with a reason to swap out cheaper oils like vegetable and corn oil for EVOO.
The key, researchers say, is to use it in moderation, as part of a balanced diet. This allows the extra virgin olive oil to be used as a source of energy in the context of a balanced lifestyle.
Extra virgin olive oil can be used in salad dressings and also in grilling and preparing food such as fish, which is a staple of the Mediterranean diet.