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Virgin olive oil is good for heart, says study

NEW YORK: When it comes to heart health, virgin olive oil may have an edge over other vegetable fats, new research suggests. Reporting in the Annals of Internal Medicine, European researchers say virgin olive oil may be particularly effective at lowering heart disease risk because of its high level of antioxidant plant compounds.

In a study of 200 healthy men, the researchers found that virgin olive oil — rich in antioxidants called polyphenols — showed stronger heart-health effects than the more extensively processed “non-virgin” variety.

The findings suggest that virgin olive oil has more going for it than its supply of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, according to the study authors. Polyphenols, they say, may account for some of the health benefits that have been attributed to the oil.

In fact, virgin olive oil is the only vegetable oil that’s rich in polyphenols, Dr. Maria-Isabel Covas, the study’s lead researcher, told Reuters Health.

“All vegetable oils other than virgin olive oil are submitted to a (refining) process in which polyphenols are practically lost,” explained Covas, a researcher at the Municipal Institute for Medical Research in Barcelona, Spain.

Even “ordinary” olive oil has a lower polyphenol content, she noted, because it’s a mixture of virgin olive oil and a more-processed form of the oil.

That fact, along with the benefits of polyphenols, she said, make olive oil “a good source of fat.”—

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