Why Olive Oil Is So Good for the Heart
All cholesterol is not equal. It comes in healthy and unhealthy forms, and doctors have long advised people to cut back on the bad cholesterol, LDL, found in red meats and fried foods. The good kind, HDL, pulls out the LDL that builds up on blood vessel walls and raises risk for a heart attack. Upping levels of HDL may therefore protect the heart from damage.
That’s the theory, but studies looking at HDL levels and heart disease events haven’t always shown that higher HDL levels lead to lower risk of disease. Scientists may finally know why. In a new study of nearly 300 people at high risk of heart disease, published in the journal Circulation, researchers found that just having high levels of HDL may not be enough to make a heart healthy. But the Mediterranean diet may help HDL to work more effectively.
The people in the yearlong study were randomly assigned to eat either a low-fat diet with little red meat and plenty of fruits and vegetables, or one of two versions of the Mediterranean diet: one enriched with olive oil and the other with nuts. After the year, the researchers compared the blood cholesterol levels of the participants to their starting levels. They found that only the people who ate the low-fat, non-Mediterranean diet lowered their total and LDL cholesterol levels, but that the people eating the two Mediterranean diets had better-working HDL…