There’s no doubt that olive oil is a rich source of antioxidants and other phytochemicals, and it’s likely the lower rates of coronary artery disease in Mediterranean countries are at least partly due to olive oil consumption. There is ample and impressive research evidence that demonstrates olive oil plays a role in promoting cardiovascular health over and above its ability to reduce blood pressure. We know diets rich in olive oil have been shown to be effective in lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Certainly, olive oil is one of the significant constituents that contribute to the cardioprotective character of the Mediterranean Diet. For example, we know the polyphenols in olive oil are potent antioxidants that help protect LDL from oxidation. Moreover, the presence of monounsaturated fatty acids help biologic membranes, like those of our cell walls, better resist oxidative damage. We know the oxidation of LDL plays a fundamental role in the progress of arteriosclerosis. In one study, when olive oil was added to the diet of healthy males, it significantly reduced the vulnerability of their LDL to oxidative damage.