Dr. Ramón Estruch talks about olive oil and health

Dr. Ramón Estruch talks about olive oil and health

In the first of its three episodes, the podcast “Olive Oils and Health” interviews professor and doctor Ramón Estruch, one of the promoters of the Mediterranean diet in which olive oil plays a prominent role in cardiovascular prevention

Doctor Ramón Estruch: el aceite de oliva, clave en la prevención cardiovascularDr. Ramón Estruch in the EFE Agency/ Andrés Ballesteros

Dr. Ramón Estruch, who talks to us about olive oil and cardiovascular health, is a senior consultant at the Internal Medicine Service of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona and a member of the Board of Directors of the CIBER Obesity and Nutrition of the Carlos III Health Institute.

Its leadership in the investigations initiated in 2003 of the PREDIMED study to evaluate the effects of the Mediterranean diet and its main components in the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases stands out.

A work in which 7,500 people participated and which concluded in 2010 with very favorable results that were published in leading scientific journals and made the cover of the New York Times.

He is currently a member of the Steering Committee of the PREDIMED PLUS study, one more step in the investigation of the Mediterranean diet.

He has published more than 650 works in specialized magazines.

Dr. Estruch is a member of the Panel of Experts of the Spanish Olive Oil Interprofessional.

olive oil

The Mediterranean diet and olive oil

Doctor, you have led the PREDIMED study, which demonstrates the health value of the Mediterranean diet. What value does olive oil have in this diet?

We think that the Mediterranean diet is the healthiest that we can recommend to patients, relatives, friends and everyone. And within the pyramid of the Mediterranean diet in which the frequency of consumption of the main elements is exposed, in the center is olive oil.

It is a very healthy fat, very rich in minor compounds such as polyphenols, and also helps to consume other healthy products such as vegetables.

What is the importance and what effect does the consumption of olive oil have on health and, specifically, on cardiovascular health?

Olive oil is a healthy fat because it is a monounsaturated fat and therefore helps to improve many of the vascular risk factors. And it has polyphenols, which are a jewel of food.

It reduces blood pressure, helps prevent diabetes, and also has a protection factor on blood flow, since it favors vasodilation and thus circulation. Increases good cholesterol (HDL) and reduces oxidation of bad (LDL).

Therefore, olive oil affects many targets of cardiovascular prevention, with an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.

It can be said that consuming olive oil, especially extra virgin, helps to extend life.

What do you expect from the PREDIMED PLUS study where you work now?

In the PREDIMED study we irrefutably demonstrate, with the highest level of scientific evidence, that the Mediterranean diet helps in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

The next question was to talk not only about diet, but also about lifestyle, exercise and physical activity, and psychosocial aspects, such as well-being or enjoying food with friends.

Measuring these aspects is what we are at, seeing how sociability and enjoying life have a very important aspect in health and allows us to prolong life.

What is the ideal amount of olive oil that a person should consume per day to have the greatest benefit in their health?

We recommend five tablespoons for everything, both for cooking and dressing. And the spicier, the better because it has more polyphenols.

Dr. Ramón Estruch in the Agency EFE/Andrés Ballesteros

Raise awareness

Do we have a population aware of what olive oil contributes to health?

It is improving a lot, and it is the work of all the actors involved: producers, the interprofessional, the media, the government… the concept has changed. Years ago oil was seen as a bad fat, but that has changed.

There is now a general awareness that olive oil is a healthy product and within a healthy diet pattern such as the Mediterranean, the maximum benefit is achieved, but we must continue without letting our guard down.

But the young population is eating quite poorly, we are also doing studies in schools, with Dr. Valentín Fuster and the SHE Foundation (Science, Health and Education) to educate children in schools to eat better. Sometimes they eat better at school than at home. Children and parents must be educated.

Is the consumption of olive oil for life?

We are seeing the anti-aging effects of olive oil. In advanced ages it also has a protective factor. It works at any age, from before birth to very old people.

What is the challenge that we have as a society to ensure that olive oil is consumed more?

We think that investing in a good diet is investing in health, and this will result in less health spending. It would be a good investment to promote the consumption of a Mediterranean diet, not just olive oil, all in the context we are talking about.

If we know how to educate the population well, the problem is not 50 and over, but the younger population. We must invest in health education, put dietitians in health centers, teachers give nutrition classes in institutes and schools. We have a jewel of food that we cannot lose and must be maintained: olive oil.


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