The Italian study, appearing in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that Italian women who ate plenty of leafy greens such as cooked spinach and salad as well as olive oil appear to face a significantly lower risk of heart disease.
According to Reuters, the scientists found that women who consumed at least one serving of leafy vegetables daily were more than 40% less likely to develop heart disease over an average of eight years, versus women who ate two or fewer portions of those vegetables each week.
Women who consumed at least 3 tablespoons of olive oil daily — in salad dressing or drizzled on food — also were 40% less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease, versus women who ate the least olive oil, Reuters reported.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, ahead of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study’s author, Dr. Domenico Palli of the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute in Florence, told Reuters “it’s not exactly clear why specifically leafy vegetables and olive oil may protect the heart.”
“Probably the mechanisms responsible for the protective effect of plant-origin foods on cardiovascular diseases involve micronutrients such as folate, antioxidant vitamins and potassium, all present in green leafy vegetables.”
Palli also told Reuters virgin olive oil may be especially potent at lowering heart disease risk because of its high level of antioxidant plant compounds. Extra virgin olive oil is the highest grade within the virgin olive oil category. Virgin oil comes from olives that are pressed mechanically without solvents or refining. The oil also isn’t mixed with other oils, such as seed or nut.
The study analyzed the dietary patterns of nearly 30,000 women between 1993 and 1998. The women were participating in a larger health study.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch