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Will Olive Oil Raise Your Good HDL Cholesterol?

Using virgin olive oil in your diet can increase your good HDL cholesterol and possibly lower your risk of heart problems.
Will Olive Oil Raise Your Good HDL Cholesterol?
Cooking meal in a pot. Bottle of Extra virgin oil pouring in to pot for cooking meal. Healthy food concept.

Many medications can lower cholesterol. but not all cholesterol is the same. One type, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) carries cholesterol to the liver so it can be eliminated. Scientists think high levels are protective. Sadly, doctors who want to raise their patients’ good HDL cholesterol levels don’t have many options. Drugs that have been developed to increase HDL have failed at their main task, preventing heart attacks. Are there non-drug approaches that can raise HDL and improve heart health?

Olive Oil to Raise Good HDL Cholesterol: 

Q. My HDL cholesterol has always been low (in the mid to upper 30s). Recently I read your article about someone who took two tablespoons of good olive oil a day to lower blood pressure.

I began taking two tablespoons every day (one in the morning in my cereal and one in my salad with dinner or used with cooking). On my most recent blood test, my good HDL went up to 50. I was pleasantly surprised, since I had made no other changes. Is there any correlation?

Spanish Scientists Cheer for Virgin Olive Oil:

A. Spanish scientists have examined this question. They found that virgin olive oil consumption boosts good HDL cholesterol (Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, March 2019).  In addition, people at high risk of cardiovascular problems also have better HDL function when their diets contain plenty of legumes, whole grains, fish and nuts.

A review of the research on HDL cholesterol found that virgin olive oil consumption improves the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of this natural blood fat (Nutrients, Feb. 26, 2020). The phenols in virgin olive oil improve HDL function; thyme phenols also contribute (Nutrients, July 26, 2019).People with high levels of good HDL cholesterol activity are less likely to develop atherosclerosis.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Hernáez A et al, "Increased consumption of virgin olive oil, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and fish promotes HDL functions in humans." Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, March 2019. DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.201800847
  • Farras M et al, "Effects of virgin olive oil and phenol-enriched virgin olive oils on lipoprotein atherogenicity." Nutrients, Feb. 26, 2020. DOI: 10.3390/nu12030601
  • Farras M et al, "A functional virgin olive oil enriched with olive oil and thyme phenolic compounds improves the expression of cholesterol efflux-related genes: A randomized, crossover, controlled trial." Nutrients, July 26, 2019. DOI: 10.3390/nu11081732
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