Healing Kitchen

Olive Oil May Reduce Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
What the Study Showed
In this 1999 Greek study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that a lifetime of eating large quantities of olive oil and cooked vegetables slashes the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

How It Was Done
The investigators recruited 145 men and women with rheumatoid arthritis from Greek hospitals and clinics, and 188 healthy individuals without the disease. The arthritic patients were examined, and blood samples and X rays were taken.

Both groups were interviewed and asked questions about their medical and family history. Participants also provided extensive information about their diet, including details on their daily consumption of more than 100 food items.

Why It's Important
Previous research already suggested that the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder, could be lessened by consuming fish oil and olive oil. The findings of the present Greek study indicate that heavy consumption of olive oil and cooked vegetables actually helps to protect against the development of this somewhat mysterious disorder in the first place.

In fact, the more of either food that participants in this study consumed, the lower their risk of developing the disease. Participants who consumed the most olive oil over the course of a lifetime (approximately 3 tablespoons a day) cut their risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 61%. Eating cooked vegetables also lowered the risk significantly: by 75% in those who ate the most (three servings or more a day).

Vegetables, both raw and cooked, constitute a major component of the traditional Greek diet. But according to this study, raw vegetables didn't provide the level of protection that cooked ones did. The researchers speculate that it's the heat from cooking (which breaks down the plant cell walls), that enhances the absorption of compounds that can benefit rheumatoid arthritis.

Exactly how olive oil reduces the risk for this inflammatory disease is still unclear. It may be due to the oil's high concentrations of unsaturated fatty acids. One of these, oleic acid, an n-9 fatty acid, forms chemicals within the body that can reduce inflammation. In addition, unrefined olive oil contains vitamin E, an antioxidant that, due to its ability to battle free radicals may also have anti-inflammatory actions.

Source: Linos A, Kaklamani VG, Kaklamani E et al. Dietary factors in relation to rheumatoid arthritis:a role for olive oil and cooked vegetables? AmJ Clin Nutr 1999 Dec;70(6):1077-82

Date Published: 08/31/2002
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