How a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil protects against heart disease

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Washington, July 1 (ANI): It is well-known that olive oil and a Mediterranean diet are associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, but a new research offers a surprising reason why: These foods change how genes associated with atherosclerosis function.

"Knowing which genes can be modulated by diet in a healthy way can help people select healthy diets," said Maria Isabel Covas, a researcher involved in the work from the Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group at the Institut Municipal d'Investigacio Medica in Barcelona, Spain.

"It is also a first step for future nutritional therapies with selected foods," she added.

Scientists worked with three groups of healthy volunteers. The first group consumed a traditional Mediterranean diet with virgin olive oil rich in polyphenols.

The second group consumed a traditional Mediterranean diet with an olive oil low in polyphenols. The third group followed their habitual diet.

After three months, the first group had a down-regulation in the expression of atherosclerosis-related genes in their peripheral blood mononuclear cells.

Additionally, the olive oil polyphenols made a significant impact on the expression of genetic changes influencing coronary heart disease.

Results also showed that the consumption of virgin olive oil in conjunction with a Mediterranean diet can positively impact lipid and DNA oxidation, insulin resistance, inflammation, carcinogenesis, and tumor suppression.

The study has been published in the July 2010 print issue of the FASEB Journal. (ANI)

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