February 13, 2017
1 min read

Mediterranean diet with virgin olive oil improves HDL function

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A traditional Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil enhances the function of HDL compared with other diets, new data show.

“Several foods and nutrients present in the [traditional Mediterranean diet] have been shown to improve a number of HDL functions in humans in previous trials,” Montserrat Fitó, MD, PhD, coordinator of the Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues wrote. “To date, however, no evidence of the effects of the whole [traditional Mediterranean diet] on HDL properties has been reported.”

A volunteer subsample of the PREDIMED trial was randomly assigned to one of three diet plans: a traditional Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil (n = 100), a traditional Mediterranean diet enriched with nuts (n = 100) and a low-fat control diet (n = 96). Participants were at high CV risk at baseline and completed 1 year of intervention.

The Mediterranean diets did not significantly increase HDL, but did improve function. The Mediterranean diet enriched with olive oil was associated with a significantly higher improvement in HDL function.

The olive-oil-enriched diet increased cholesterol efflux capacity relative to baseline (P = .018), as did the nut-enriched diet (P = .013). Cholesteryl ester transfer protein activity decreased in the olive-oil-enriched Mediterranean diet (P relative to baseline = .028), according to the researchers. Compared with the low-fat control diet, the olive-oil-enriched diet increased HDL ability to esterify cholesterol (P = .039), paraoxonase-1 arylesterase activity (P = .012) and HDL vasodilatory capacity (P = .026).

“Following a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil could protect our [CV] health in several ways, including making our [HDL] work in a more complete way,” Fitó said in a press release.

Adherence to any of the three diets increased the percentage of large HDL particles (P relative to baseline < .001). Both traditional Mediterranean diets improved HDL oxidative status and composition.

“Our data support the improvement in HDL function after following a [traditional Mediterranean diet],” the researchers wrote. “Further studies are warranted to investigate the mechanism by which the [traditional Mediterranean diet] improves HDL function and whether these properties convey cardioprotective effects.” – by Cassie Homer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.