Olive oil can help prevent heart failure by making a damaged heart function more efficiently, a major new study has found.
Oleate, a fat in the oil, helps the heart to contract and pump blood-and may break the vicious cycle of heart failure, say researchers from the University of Illinois. By contrast, fats from dairy, meat and palm oil-in other words, from the standard Western diet-worsen heart disease and failure.
Oleate has a "significantly positive effect" on heart health, even when the heart has started to fail.
When laboratory rats with failing hearts were given olive oil, their hearts immediately improved in the way the hearts contracted and pumped blood, said lead researcher Douglas Landowski.
Heart failure isn't about having a heart attack: instead, it's a chronic disease that occurs when the heart becomes enlarged because of high blood pressure. Because it has to work harder in order to pump blood, the heart walls grow thicker and the volume of blood being pumped falls. The failing heart can't process or store fats effectively, although they are needed for fuel. These fats cause toxic by-products that contribute to heart disease.
(Source: Circulation, September 29, 2014; doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.011687)