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Extra-virgin is the oil of choice to protect against LDL oxidation

Olive oil

Olea europea

Many Mediterranean populations that consume large amounts of olive oil as part of their diets enjoy a decreased incidence of coronary heart disease. The presence of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants in the diet is directly related to the ability of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol to resist oxidation. Oxidative damage of LDL cholesterol has been linked to development of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases. The present study was conducted to investigate whether differences in olive oil processing methods yield any measurable health benefits. Extra-virgin olive oil (VO) is characterized by very low acidity and retains the fatty acids and antioxidants present in the olives. Refined olive oil (RO), by contrast, has the same fatty acid composition, but because of additional processing lacks the antioxidants present in VO. In this randomized, crossover study, one group of patients with peripheral vascular disease received VO to use in cooking for three months, followed by a three-month washout period, then received RO for the final three months. The other group consumed the oils in the opposite order. Intake of alpha-tocopherol, considered to be a “first line of defense” against LDL oxidation, was higher for patients consuming VO. LDL oxidation rate was lower for patients consuming VO than RO, and during periods when patients consumed VO, a decreased uptake of oxidized LDL by macrophages was also noted. Significant differences in the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation during VO consumption periods led researchers to conclude that the antioxidant composition of VO appears to be more protective against LDL oxidation than RO.

Ramirez-Tortosa M, Urbano G, López-Jurado M, et al. Extra-virgin olive oil increases the resistance of LDL to oxidation more than refined olive oil in free-living men with peripheral vascular disease. J Nutr 1999; 129: 2177-2183.


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