"Red wine and green olive oil--rich in antioxidants--led to an improvement in the postprandial (after the meal) endothelial function in healthy subjects. These findings provide an additional favorable effect of components of the Mediterranean diet and of their antioxidant substances on endothelial function, at the postprandial (after meal) state."
-Karatzi, K. et al. "Postprandial Improvement of Endothelial Function by Red Wine and Olive Oil Antioxidants: A Synergistic Effect of Components of the Mediterranean Diet." Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2008 Aug;27(4):448-453."The salads all tasted the same to me," says Brown. But when researchers went back and analyzed the blood samples they realized that people who had eaten fat-free dressings didn't absorb the beneficial carotenoids from the salad. Only when they had eaten the oil-based dressing did they get the nutrients.
-Brown, MJ et al. "Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004 Aug;80(2):396-403.
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I seems so long since last I posted--and I've got so much to share--and far too little time in which to do it.
I just got back from New York City, getting my "gorgeous grandson fix". And my son and daughter-in-law and my Bob/Babs fix, as well! 65 degrees, blue skies, and plenty of stroller time. And plenty of delicious home-cooked vegan meals!
So, here's number one on my list of must-share health news!
A little bit of green olive oil can be good for you. A little bit of red wine can be good for you. Just be sure to mix them together.
"Oh yeah," you say, "We already knew that." Well, it's not so simple. Let me explain.
- The Vitamins and Salad Dressing Story. Back in 2004 researchers at Iowa State University hooked up grad students with IV lines and had them eat bowls of salad made with greens and tomatoes, and topped them with either fat-free, reduced-fat, or full-fat salad dressings. Then they analyzed the blood of the salad eaters to determine the absorption of nutrients, vitamins, and anti-oxidants. Bottom Line: The salads with the full-fat dressing provided the best absorption of beta-carotene. The reduced-fat dressing eaters had substantially less absorption of beta-carotene. And the fat-free dressing salad eaters had no absorption of the beta-carotenes.
- Don't Miss Out on Your Carotenoids! "We already knew that carotenoids were fat soluble," explains Wendy White, a professor of Human Nutrition at Iowa State University. The results helped reinforce the idea that a little fat is healthy. Carotenoids are the pigments responsible for red-, yellow- and orange-colored fruits and vegetables. And carotenoids are also found in dark green vegetables such as spinach. The compounds convert to Vitamin A in the body, and studies have found that carotenoids have antioxidant activity which may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Human studies have linked high consumption of fruits and vegetables to reduced risk of cancer."
- Red Red Wine Makes Me Feel So Fine. Using high-resolution imaging of blood vessels, University of Athens researchers found that after eating a light meal (vegetable soup & white bread) that included 1/4 cup of green olive oil (the first press of premature green olives), and 8.4 ounces of red wine, the dilation of blood vessels of their volunteers actually improved--and remained dilated for 2 hours after the meal. This is big news. It didn't just "do no harm"--it improved dilation. The researchers compared post-meal blood vessel dilation with every combination of olive oil & wine--refined olive oil, green olive oil, white wine, and red wine. No other combination of wine & oil, except the green olive oil & red wine was able to actually increase the flow-mediated-dilation of the blood vessels, although all the combos prevented any expected blood vessel constriction. Note: Red wine did not increase blood vessel dilation when refined olive oil was eaten. In effect, all the benefits of red wine can't work their magic when you consume refined oils, most likely because the antioxidants in the green olive oil really do make a difference!
- Robert Vogel's Olive Oil Research. The Greek researchers' goal was to see if the addition of red wine to olive oil would produce a different effect on blood vessels than Robert Vogel found when he fed volunteers bread and olive oil. Robert Vogel's 2000 study found that a meal of 1/4 cup of olive oil & bread caused endothelial dysfunction after it was eaten. The olive oil constricted blood flow by a whopping 31% after the meal. Since endothelial dysfunction is an early indication of atherosclerosis and blood vessel damage--this was important news.
- Why Red Wine and Green Olive Oil Work. Why did red wine & green olive oil improve the post-meal vasodilation? The Greek researchers say that their antioxidants increase nitric oxide (that magic gas) production in the linings of the blood vessels--and at the same time they protect the nitric oxide production from free radical damage. A good thing! Resveratrol baby! Nitric oxide production increases 3-fold in endothelial cells that are "incubated" in red wine. They also speculate that the ethanol in the wine acts as a vasodilator and increases nitric oxide production.
Why Did I Get Gun-Shy About Olive Oil?
Back in July 2008 I did some serious rethinking about my olive oil habit. Since everyone was singing its praises--how it's so rich in polyphenols and antioxidants--I thought nothing of pouring a couple glugs of oil onto a plate and sopping it up with some crusty whole wheat bread.
That was before I learned about the "dark-side" of olive oil, from the research of Dr. Robert Vogel and Dr. Lawrence Rudel, and the experiences of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Dean Ornish. You'll find the results of my little olive oil investigation reprinted at the bottom of this page, "I'm Going to Miss My Olive Oil - Who Knew It Wasn't So Healthy After All? Drs. Essestyn, Ornish, Vogel, and Rudel Did."
So Let's Take a Look at the Numbers! What's the ORAC Index on Olive Oil and Wine?
Olive Oil, 2 tsp serving = 100 ORAC points
Red wine (Cabernet), 5 oz. serving = 7400 ORAC points
Romaine lettuce, 1 cup serving = 500 ORAC points
Kale, raw, 1 cup serving = 1770 ORAC points
So, you get the picture. Sure olive oil has some polyphenolic, antioxidant benefit, but it pales in comparison to wine, fruit, and vegetables. It's at the level of 1 cup of raw zucchini--no one's idea of nutrient-packed vegetable.
Take Away Message: I'm still keeping my olive oil consumption low--a least cutting the amount in half for most recipes, but I'm not going feel apologetic or guilty about using it. I'm keeping my oil green--on the look-out for some high-antioxidant first press premature green olive oil. Anyone know of a brand that fits this bill? I'm also going to make sure to put a teaspoon or so of olive oil on my salads to absorb those beta-carotenes--or a sprinkle of some nuts or pumpkin seeds.
I still think there is validity to the research I posted about in 2008. Oil is highly caloric and 100% fat, and it's a pretty weak source of antioxidants compared to veggies. Moderation is key.
But, I'm also wondering about the results of Vogel's bread & olive oil study. Canola oil definitely did less damage than olive oil did. Something to think about.
As for red wine--it's here to stay--in moderation of course! Why would anyone bother with white?
The "Dark Side" of Olive Oil
July 04, 2008I'm Going to Miss My Olive Oil - Who Knew It Wasn't So Healthy After All? Drs. Esselstyn, Ornish, Vogel & Rudel Did
Is Olive Oil the healthiest fat? In a word, no! It's a better fat, but not the best one.
-Dr. Dean Ornish-
to our hypothesis, our study found that omega-9 (oleic acid)--rich
Olive Oil, impairs endothelial function after eating. If you've been
using olive oil because you think it's healthy, it's time to think
-Dr. Robert Vogel-
This is so disappointing. I've been dipping my whole grain bread in extra virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar and feeling "oh so virtuous"--as I soaked up every last drop of oil on my plate. Olive oil is essentially the only fat I eat & cook with. I love the stuff!
Finding out that olive oil is bad makes me feels the same as when I found out that the tooth fairy & Santa Claus were made up stories.
Truth be told--this isn't the first time I've heard this. It's just that now it's finally soaking in--just like olive oil on bread. About 4 or 5 years ago at a Grand Rounds on the benefits of a plant-based diet held at my medical center, I asked one of Dr. Esselstyn's proteges if olive oil is finally on the OK list--now that we know how healthy the Mediterranean Diet is for us.
"Absolutely not!", he said. "Olive oil, like any fat causes inflammation and harms blood vessels. The research is out there. No one is listening. No oil--no olive oil!" Needless to say, I ignored what he had to say.
March when Dr. T. Colin Campbell spoke at my hospital's Wellness Grand
Rounds, I decided to ask Dr. Campbell what he thought about olive oil
and nuts. I just knew they had to be good for us.
"I'll let Dr. Esselstyn, who is here answer that question. He's the expert on oil & nuts." replied Dr. Campbell.
"Olive oil has been shown to injure the blood vessel's endothelium (lining). Walnuts are OK-but not if you already have heart disease. You know, here's what I've discovered. If you tell someone with heart disease that walnuts are OK, before you know it they have a bowl of nuts on their coffee table, a bag of nuts in their car and on and on. Nuts are full of calories--which is the last thing you need to eat when you're trying to lose weight. I advise my patients against eating nuts for this very reason.", Dr. Esselstyn said.
I heard what he said--but somehow it didn't apply to me. Until June 25th, when I heard Esselstyn speak on NPR's affiliate station, WCNP's Sound of Ideas about "Eradicating Heart Disease".
Here's Why You May Want to Think Twice About Olive Oil
- From Dr. Dean Ornish: It's 100% fat and 14% of it is saturated. At 120 calories a tablespoon it's very easy to eat too much of "a bad thing". It won't raise your LDL as much as butter or other saturated fats will, so it might look like it's reducing your cholesterol, but it's still raising it. It's just not raising it as much other fats would! It's the omega-3's that reduce inflammation and are "heart healthy", and olive oil has very little omega-3, maybe 1%. It's mostly omega-9, which has been shown to impair blood vessel function. Canola and flax seed oil are much higher in omega-3's--and are much healthier oils to use. Just go easy on them!.
- From Dr. Robert Vogel of the University of Maryland: This is the study that convinced me! Back in 2000 Vogel based his study on the Lyon Heart Study, which is the big-time study that got us all to eat the Mediterranean Diet. He wanted to see how olive oil, salmon (fish oil) and canola oil actually affect the blood vessels. Using the brachial artery tourniquet test he had 10 healthy volunteers with normal cholesterol ingest 50 grams of fat, in the form of olive oil & bread, canola oil & bread, and salmon. Measuring their arterial blood flow before & after each meal Vogel could tell whether or not a meal was causing damage to the endothelial lining of the brachial artery, based on how the blood was flowing through the artery after the meal was eaten. The results really surprised him. The olive oil constricted blood flow by a whopping 31% after the meal; the canola oil constricted it by 10%; and the salmon reduced it by only 2%. Why should we care? Because when the arteries constrict, the endothelium (the vessel's lining) is injured, triggering plaque build-up, or atherosclerosis. Vogel RA. Corretti MC. Plotnick GD. The postprandial effect of components of the Mediterranean diet on endothelial function. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 36(5):1455-60, 2000 Nov 1. Similar results have been found it later studies. This isn't just a one-hit wonder. Interestingly, walnuts, which have Omega-3's have also been shown to improve blood flow by 24% using the brachial artery tourniquet test. Go omega 3's!
- How does olive oil constrict blood vessels?: Dr. Vogel discovered back in 1999
that a high fat meal blocks the endothelium's ability to produce that
all important NITRIC OXIDE, which is a vasodilator and critical to
preserving the tone & health of our blood vessels. When olive oil
constricts the blood vessels it's because it's blocking the production
of nitric oxide. Not a good thing!
- From Dr. Lawrence Rudel of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Rudel ran a five year study feeding olive oil and saturated fat to African Green monkeys. The monkeys metabolize fat in the same way as humans, so they're good stand-ins.. At the end of five years, their autopsies showed that the monkeys who were fed olive oil had higher HDLs (the good cholesterol) and lower LDLs (the bad cholesterol) than the ones fed the saturated fat diet. The big surprise here: Both groups had exactly the same amount of coronary artery disease. The higher HDLs & lower LDLs of the olive oil group were meaningless. Rudel later repeated the study on rodents, and got the same results.
- From Dr. Caldwell Esseltsyn: Dr. E tells a story in his book about Rev. William Valentine of North Carolina who had a quintuple bypass in 1990. Since his surgery he followed a strict plant-based diet, dropping from 210 pounds to 156 pounds. For 14 years he maintained his weight & his diet. But by 2004 he started to experience a recurrence of angina, especially when he exercised. He promptly contacted Dr. Esselstyn after reading about his success in reversing heart disease in a health newsletter. Valentine wanted no part of a repeat bypass or other intervention. He assured Dr. E that he only ate whole grains, legumes, vegetable & fruit. A baffled Dr. E prompted him to repeat once again everything he was eating, leaving nothing out.
"He had forgotten to mention that he was consuming "heart healthy" olive oil at every lunch and dinner and in salads. It was what they call a Eureka moment. Immediately, I advised him to give up the olive oil. He did--and within seven weeks, his angina had completely disappeared." Dr. Esselstyn
Little known fact: Olive oil, which got its big "heart healthy" start with the Lyon Study, wasn't even used in the study. The study volunteers didn't like the taste of it, so canola oil was substituted for olive oil. All the benefit that we attributed to olive oil, was actually from Omega-3 enriched canola oil.
What does Dr. Dean Ornish advise?: The best oils are canola, fish oil (omega-3s), flaxseed oil & nonstick cooking sprays. Always in small amounts. Second best, and in very small amounts, is olive oil.
What does Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn advise?: When it comes to olive oil, canola or any oil--FORGET ABOUT IT. He does advise taking a tablespoon of flaxseed every day for omega 3's.
What Am I Going to Do? Olive oil--forget about it, except in tiny amounts. (at least I say that right now) I admit it, I was using way too much of the stuff, and consuming far too many unhealthy calories than I needed. I thought that because my HDLs were so high I was in good shape. Just like the African Green monkeys, the olive oil could have been raising my HDLs, while all the while plaque was forming in my arteries. Still mulling over a bigger move in the direction of a vegan goody-goody. Except, of course, when I'm invited out!