Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Reduces Need for Blood Pressure Medication
March 29, 2000 (Baltimore) -- People on high blood pressure medications may
be able to reduce the amount of medicine they take if they substitute
extra-virgin olive oil for other types of fats in their diet, a study in the
March 27 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine reports.
"The most important finding in this study is that the daily use of olive
oil, about 40 grams per day, markedly reduces the dosage of [blood pressure
medication] by about 50% in hypertensive patients on a previously stable drug
dosage," says L. Aldo Ferrara, MD, associate professor of internal medicine
at the Frederico II University of Naples in Naples, Italy, and the study's lead
Forty grams per day of extra-virgin olive oil amounts to about four
tablespoons, Ferrara tells WebMD. That is the amount men in this study
consumed, with women consuming about three tablespoons. Each study participant
had high blood pressure and was on medicine to control it. Each ate a diet
comprised of 17% protein, 57% carbohydrates, 35 grams of fiber, and 26% total
fats with 5.8% saturated fats, per day for six months. Participants were
assigned to receive the majority of their fats from either extra virgin olive
oil or sunflower oil. Then each participant was switched to the other type of
oil for an additional six months.
During the 12-month study, regular measurements of blood pressure were
taken, and when blood pressure fell, the dose of blood pressure medication was
"Daily dosage of [blood pressure medication] was reduced by 48% during
the olive oil diet and by 4% during the sunflower oil diet," reports
Ferrara. "In particular, blood pressure was controlled without any
medication in eight patients during the olive oil diet but none during the
sunflower oil diet.
Ferrara explains that only extra-virgin olive oil contains antioxidants
called "polyphenols," which he and his fellow researchers think may be
responsible for the drop in blood pressure seen in this study. Polyphenols are
completely absent from sunflower oil, according to Ferrara and colleagues.
Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, professor of nutrition at the Jean Mayer U.S.
Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts
University, reviewed the study for WebMD. "This is an interesting finding,
but there are lots of interesting findings," she tells WebMD. "I'm not
aware of a relationship between polyphenols and [high blood pressure], and from
a public health perspective I'm not sure it has much utility. I just saw a
study recently where a diet containing 600 calories of chocolate a day had
health benefits the authors are also attributing to the polyphenols in
chocolate. But does this mean we should all be consuming 600 calories a day of
chocolate or 40 grams a day of extra-virgin olive oil? This study needs to be
followed up, and I hope that no one reduces their [blood pressure] medicines
and starts consuming extra-virgin olive oil based on this one study."