Platelets are small blood cell fragments that form clumps when activated. When a blood vessel gets damaged, platelets rush to the site of injury to form clots and stop the bleeding. However, as beneficial as they are, these platelets also contribute to the buildup of plaques in the arteries, which leads to a condition called atherosclerosis.
According to Sean Heffron, lead author of the study, atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes.
Using food frequency surveys, the researchers determined how often 63 obese, nonsmoking, and non-diabetic participants with an average BMI of 44.1 consumed olive oil. They found that those who consumed olive oil once a week had lower platelet activation than those who ate olive oil less often. Moreover, participants who ate olive oil more frequently had the lowest amount of platelet aggregation.
The researchers believe that, aside from the antioxidants found in olive oil, its anti-platelet effect is linked to its molecular structure. (Related: Olive oil is the healthiest choice when it comes to frying food, study finds.)
“People who are obese are at increased risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event, even if they don't have diabetes or other obesity-associated conditions. Our study suggests that choosing to eat olive oil may have the potential to help modify that risk, potentially lowering an obese person's threat of having a heart attack or stroke,” said Heffron.
Co-author Ruina Zhang further explained: "To our knowledge, this is the first study to assess the effects of dietary composition, olive oil specifically, on platelet function in obese patients.”
The researchers presented their preliminary findings at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Session 2019 in Houston.
Olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean Diet, which promotes heart health. This diet is based on the traditional foods that people from Italy and Greece ate during the 1960s. The Mediterranean Diet involves a high intake of healthy, plant-based foods and minimal consumption of animal-based foods. The list below includes some of the common foods people on the Mediterranean Diet eat.
Olive oil is a great alternative to other fats and oils currently available in the market. Food.news has more about olive oil and the Mediterranean diet.