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Olive Oil Offers Protection from Air Pollution

According to a new study from the US Environment Protection Agency, dietary supplementation with olive oil may protect blood vessels from the deleterious effects of air pollution.

It's known that exposure to air pollution, and the tiny, microscopic particles from burning fuel in cars and other vehicles in particular, can affect the function of cells lining blood vessels (the endothelium) leading to endothelial dysfunction, which in turn could detrimentally affect cardiovascular health.

New data published in Environmental Health Perspectives indicated that three weeks of supplementation with olive oil may counter these detrimental effects, and attenuate endothelial dysfunction. On the other hand, no beneficial effects were observed for fish oil supplementation under the conditions of this study, reported the scientists.

For this study, the researchers recruited 42 people aged about 58 and randomly assigned them to receive no supplements, or supplements of olive oil (3 grams per day, with a fatty acid composition of 73% oleic acid and 12% palmitic acid), fish oil (3 grams per day, providing 1,230 mg EPA and 822 mg of DHA). The participants consumed the supplements for four weeks prior to a two hour exposure to air with particulate matter. Endothelial function was assessed before, immediately after and 20 hours after exposure.

Results showed that endothelial function, as measured by flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the brachial artery, was significantly reduced in the no supplement group by about 20%. The fish oil group also experienced significant reductions in FMD of about 14%, said the researchers. However, FMD decreased by 7.6% in the olive oil group (but I'll point out that this was not a statistically significant reduction). Exposure to the air pollution also increased biomarkers of inflammation in the no supplement group (by 17%), but these increases were not seen in either the fish oil or olive oil groups.

“These findings provide the basis for a future cohort study focusing on between-group comparisons in order to confirm and further evaluate olive oil supplementation as a protective intervention against  the adverse health effects of particulate matter inhalation,” wrote the researchers.

Other studies have already found that olive oil may improve endothelial function, increase FMD, and decrease blood pressure in healthy and mildly hypertensive subjects.

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Source: Dietary Supplementation with Olive Oil or Fish Oil and Vascular Effects of Concentrated Ambient Particulate Matter Exposure in Human Volunteers

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