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How Just Half a Tablespoon of Olive Oil a Day Can Improve Heart Health

oilve-oil-heart-health
Researchers say olive oil, as well as certain vegetable oils, are healthier for your heart than animal-based fats. Getty Images
  • New research shows that adding olive oil to a diet leads to improved cardiovascular outcomes.
  • While the health benefits of olive oil are well known, researchers found similarly positive results with other healthy vegetable oils.
  • Across the board, vegetable oils represent a healthier form of fat than animal-based fats.
  • Olive oil is a major component of the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest overall diets.

It’s long been known that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest overall diets.

Now, research shines new light on the ways that one of the diet’s main components — olive oil — helps boost heart health.

Researchers presented their findings today at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions in Phoenix.

Their analysis of long-term data, dating back to 1990, shows that eating more than 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil per day lowers one’s risk of cardiovascular disease by 15 percent and the risk of coronary heart disease by 21 percent.

While consumption of olive oil has been associated with improved heart health for years, the new research shows these associations with a U.S.-based population for the first time.

“Mostly, these associations have been shown in the past in Mediterranean and European populations,” Marta Guasch-Ferre, PhD, lead author of the study and a research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, told Healthline. “But until now, there was no previous study that showed results in a U.S. population.”

 

New wrinkles

The health benefits of olive oil are well understood, according to Dr. Benjamin Hirsh, director of preventive cardiology at Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, New York.

“Olive oil is a simple way to replace unhealthy, saturated, and trans-fatty acids of animal fats with a source of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol,” Hirsh told Healthline. “It has also been associated with improved vascular function, heart health, and survival.”

Animal-based fats such as margarine, butter, dairy fat, and mayonnaise are less healthy than olive oil when it comes to supporting heart health.

An intriguing detail uncovered in the new study shows that olive oil isn’t the only oil that contains these benefits.

Guasch-Ferre said that researchers also saw positive associations with other plant oils, such as corn or safflower oil, although more research is needed to confirm the effects of plant oils on health outcomes.

“While olive oil was better than animal fat when we did the substitution analysis, they were not superior to vegetable oils,” she explained. “This means that other vegetable oils could be a healthy alternative compared to animal fat, especially because they tend to be more affordable in the U.S. compared to olive oil.”

Guasch-Ferre also pointed out that these findings are consistent with current recommendations that highlight the quality, rather than the quantity, of fat intake.

She adds that the study led to new questions, and more data will undoubtedly add to the overall understanding of the relationship between olive oil and heart health.

“One thing that we couldn’t analyze here was the different types of olive oil — whether it was common olive oil or extra virgin olive oil. There’s some evidence showing that extra virgin olive oil varieties have higher amounts of polyphenols that are associated with better lipid profiles and less inflammation,” she said.

“It would be interesting to see the effects of different varieties, along with the effects of different vegetable oils on health outcomes, along with defining the underlying mechanisms of these associations,” Guasch-Ferre added.

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Well-rounded approach

While replacing animal fats with healthier alternatives such as olive or vegetable oil is a strong step toward improved cardiovascular health, it’s hardly the be-all and end-all.

Good heart health also includes physical activity, a balanced diet and, ideally, visits with a doctor to stay on track.

Hirsh cautioned that olive oil by itself is not a miracle cure.

“I believe that focusing on one component of nutrition misses the benefits that derive from the change in the overall dietary pattern,” he said. “It is likely that those [in the study] who switched to consuming more olive oil as a substitute for unhealthy fats probably also enacted changes in their lifestyles to consume healthier food and be more active.”

Anyone who wants to change their diet to promote better heart health can start by adopting the Mediterranean diet. This diet focuses on unrefined, plant-based foods, along with fish, and — of course — plenty of olive oil.

A final note pointed out by both Guasch-Ferre and Hirsh is that the study’s findings are observational. This means that researchers can’t prove cause and effect.

Still, the findings are supported by long-standing medical knowledge surrounding the health benefits of olive oil while adding an intriguing wrinkle surrounding the benefits of other vegetable oils.

“There’s a lot of research showing that plant-based foods, including healthier vegetable oils like olive oil, can have benefits for heart health,” Guasch-Ferre said. “Butter or other fats, which are high in saturated fats, can be harmful for the heart. It’s better to use olive oil for cooking than other animal fat and it’s also better to have olive oil in ingredients rather than other animal fats.”

Chaga Mushrooms. An ancient medical marvel.

This coffee additive and killer of trees has a reputation as a medical marvel.

Chaga-Mushroom-Extract
Chaga Mushroom Extract is renowned for it's health effects. (iStock/Getty Images)

Inonotus obliquus, the chaga mushroom, is a parasitic polypore that slowly sucks the life from birch trees. It lives in cold northern climates and takes decades to decimate its victims. Despite chaga’s destructive capabilities, this fungus has been prescribed as a natural remedy for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. In Russia, Poland, the Baltics, and Scandinavia, chaga is revered for its use in folk medicine.

One traditional use of chaga is tea. In response to World War II rationing, Finns in particular embraced the beverage and steeped chaga in Finland came to be known as tikka tea (tikka means woodpecker in Finnish, a reference to chaga’s tree-destroying ways). Some entrepreneurial spirits continue to experiment with chaga-based pick-me-ups. A small roaster in Maine and a Finnish startup now make chaga coffee. The beverages are a combination of actual Arabica coffee beans and chaga mushrooms, and resemble regular coffee in taste and color. The Finnish company, Four Sigmatic, claims the coffee doesn’t cause the crash or jitters that accompany a typical cup of joe. 

What’s also unusual about the chaga mushroom is that it’s not really a mushroom. It’s fungal mycelium that grows outside birch trees into a bulbous outpouring that resembles burnt charcoal and can reach the size of a basketball.

Published research on the medicinal properties of chaga is lacking, but its reputation in traditional medicine has given it clout among the holistic healing crowd. Users typically drink it after boiling the fungus for a few hours. It’s safe for consumption (although it does possess blood-thinning properties). Think of it as a coffee additive that might just cure what ails you.

via – Atlas Obcura | Source – Atlas Obscura | Search  》medicinal mushrooms

The Health Benefits & Side Effects of St. John’s Wort

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St. John's Wort. An ancient herbal remedy. (iStock/Getty Images)

Introduction

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a flowering plant in the Hypericaceae family named for its bright yellow flowers that were said to bloom for the first time around St. John the Baptist’s birthday. The word “wort” means “plant” in Old English.

  • St. John’s wort
  • Saint John’s wort
  • Hypericum (from the scientific name)
  • Goatweed
  • Klamath weed
  • Tipton weed

People have been using St. John’s wort for centuries. Today, the popular herb is often used to ease the symptoms of depression.

Possible Health Benefits of St. John's Wort. Source - Verywell. Author - Jessica Olah.

Health Benefits

St. John’s wort is widely believed to boost mood and provide some relief from depression, but it’s not exactly clear how it works.

Researchers suspect that ingredients in the herb (hypericin and hyperforin) may increase levels of certain brain chemicals, like serotonin. People with depression often have low levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters.

One reason people may wish to try the natural remedy for depression (as opposed to antidepressants that can increase serotonin) is that St. John’s wort tends to have fewer side effects than medications.

The herb is also being explored for the following health concerns:

An oil made from St. John’s wort has also been used topically for wound healing and a variety of other skin conditions such as eczema and hemorrhoids.

 

Depression

 

Although the benefit of St. John’s wort is still being explored, research suggests the herb can be more effective than a placebo in alleviating mild-to-moderate depression.

 

A 2015 review published in the Annals of Family Medicine examined whether antidepressants were more effective than a placebo for patients being treated for depression by their primary care doctor.The researchers examined 66 previously published studies (with a total of 15,161 participants) and found that both antidepressant medications and St. John’s wort extracts were more effective than a placebo for treating mild to moderate depression.

 

People taking St. John’s wort were also more likely to continue treatment, as the herb was associated with fewer adverse effects compared to tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (NRI), a serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), and noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressant agents (NaSSAs).

 

Major Depression

 

The most comprehensive research on St. John’s wort and major depression includes a 2018 report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.2

 

Researchers looked at 29 previously published clinical trials (with a total of 5,489 participants) that compared the effects of St. John’s wort to a placebo or standard antidepressant medication for a period of four to 12 weeks.

 

The study’s authors found that St. John’s wort extracts may be more effective than a placebo and were as effective as standard antidepressants. Additionally, the herb appeared to have fewer side effects. 

The authors noted that the studies conducted in German-speaking countries (where St. John’s wort has a long history of use and is often recommended by physicians) reported more positive results than studies conducted in the United States and other countries.

 

Possible Side Effects

People taking an oral St. John’s wort supplement for a short period of time may experience side effects. These may include:

 
  • Mild stomach upset
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Tingling
  • Allergic skin reactions
  • Sexual or erectile dysfunction
  • Vivid dreams
  • Liver injury
  • Psychosis (rare)
 

When used topically, St. John’s wort may cause a skin rash. St. John’s wort (both oral or topical) can also increase the sensitivity of your skin and eyes to sunlight. If you have a condition such as lupus or are taking medication that can cause photosensitivity (such as some acne medications), review the risks and benefits of taking St. John’s wort with your doctor or pharmacist.

 

Possible Drug Interactions

 

St. John’s wort can cause serious interactions with commonly used medications because of how it gets broken down by the liver. The herb can interact with medication in different ways. It can make some drugs less effective while making the effect of others stronger.4

 

The types of medications that may interact with St. John’s Wort include:

 
  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Blood thinners such as warfarin
  • Sedatives and medications used to treat anxiety
  • Drugs used to treat cancer, heart conditions, and HIV/AIDS
  • Over-the-counter medications (for sleep, coughs, and colds)

St. John’s wort can also interact with other herbs and supplements. You should avoid taking any nutritional supplement or remedy that can raise serotonin, such as 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), L-tryptophan, or SAMe if you are taking St. John’s wort.

 

Taking St. John’s wort with antidepressants or any substance that raises serotonin can cause serotonin syndrome, a potentially dangerous condition resulting from an excess of serotonin. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include confusion, fever, hallucinations, nausea, loss of muscle coordination, sweating, and shakiness.

 

If you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking St. John’s wort and seek immediate medical attention. Without treatment, the condition can be fatal.

 
 

Contraindications

 

There may be certain situations where it would be unsafe for you to take a supplement such as St. John’s wort or you will need an adjusted dose.

 

For example, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to conceive, or taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills), it’s important to talk with your doctor before you start taking St. John’s wort.

 

St. John’s wort may worsen symptoms in people with certain conditions, including:

 
 

Some research has indicated taking certain herbal supplements, including St. John’s wort, may increase your risk of complications if you are put under anesthesia. You should not take St. John’s wort for two weeks before having surgery.5

 

If you have received an organ transplant, you will need to avoid St. John’s wort as it can interact with the medications given to help prevent transplant rejection.

 

Dosage and Preparation

There is not enough scientific data to provide a standard recommended dose of St. John’s wort, though there are doses commonly used by researchers who are investigating the herb’s effect on depression.

 

In NIH-funded trials, participants were given a 300mg dose of a specific concentration of St. John’s wort extract three times a day (900mg daily total). The maximum dose given was 1,800mg per day. By the end of the eight-week trial, the average daily dose was 1,300mg per day.

The appropriate dose of St. John’s wort for you will depend on several factors including your age, biological sex, and medical history. It’s best to work with your doctor, pharmacist, and/or an alternative health practitioner to personalize your dose to ensure effectiveness and safety.

 

St. John’s wort can be found in several different preparations depending on how it will be used. There are dry, oil, and liquid preparations, including tinctures, capsules, and elixirs.6

 

Each preparation of St. John’s wort will have different potencies. The strength may also vary from one supplement brand to another.

 

If you are taking St. John’s wort for depression, you may find taking a daily capsule more effective than using a topical treatment (which may be better suited to treating muscle pain, for instance).

 

To help maintain its effectiveness, all preparations of the herb should be kept in a cool, dry, place. Active ingredients in St. John’s wort may be affected by light, which is why the supplements are often packaged in a dark-colored container. Make sure to store the bottle or package out of direct sunlight.

 

St. John’s wort products need to be stored safely, just like any other medication. Unlike prescription and over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements don’t always come in child-proof containers.

What to Look For

St. John’s wort is widely available in pharmacies, supermarkets, and health food stores and comes in different doses. Check the Supplement Facts label for the product you choose to ensure you are getting the appropriate dose. This label also provides information about other ingredients the supplement may contain.

 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests looking for products with a seal of approval from a third-party organization that provides quality testing, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, Consumer Lab, or NSF International.

 

A seal of approval from these organizations assures a product was properly manufactured, that it actually includes the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants. A seal of approval does not, however, guarantee a product’s safety or effectiveness.
Source – Verywellmind.com