Olive Oil Cleared for Heart-Healthy Claim

FDA Approves Qualified Health Claim for Olive Oil in Fighting Heart Disease

From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 1, 2004 -- Olive oil has now joined the ranks of nuts and fish in earning the right to advertise its heart-healthy benefits.

The FDA has approved a new qualified health claim for olive oil based on studies that show eating about two tablespoons of olive oil a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.

But don't go dipping that bread into a bowl of your favorite olive oil yet. Researchers say the most benefits are achieved by substituting olive oil for other, artery-clogging fats like butter and animal fat in your diet rather than just adding more olive oil.

Olive oil contains a type of fat known as monounsaturated fat that can lower cholesterol levels when eaten instead of saturated fats. However, olive oil contains about the same amount of total fat grams and calories as other types of fats.

Saturated fats come mostly from animal products -- meat, poultry, and dairy. They also come from vegetable oils, such as palm and coconut oils. Saturated fats increase LDL "bad" cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.

New Health Claim for Olive Oil

Under the new qualified health claims, olive oil products may contain the following qualified health claim in their labels and advertising:

"Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. One serving of this product [Name of food] contains [x] grams of olive oil."

It's the third qualified health claim approved by the FDA. Two separate qualified health claims have been approved for nuts and fish or supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids in reducing the risk of heart disease.

The FDA introduced qualified health claims in 2003 as part of a program that ranks scientific evidence behind health claims of food products. Under the new system, the FDA allows food and supplement manufacturers to make qualified health claims about their products as long as they contain an appropriate disclaimer.