Spanish researchers have determined that cooking in olive or sunflower oil is not linked to heart disease or premature death. Fried foods have been linked to many of the risk factors for heart disease. These include high cholesterol, weight gain that leads to obesity and hypertension, and high blood pressure.
For their study, the researchers examined the cooking habits and health of nearly 41,000 adults, aged 29 to 69. None of the participants had heart disease at the start of the study, which lasted 11 years. The participants were divided into four groups depending on how much fried food they consumed.
In Spain, olive and sunflower oil are used for cooking, so the researchers’ results are based on these preferences. They caution that results taken in other countries may differ if the same types of oil are not used. Food fried in a solid oil like butter and/or re-used oils such as those commonly found in fast food restaurants have a different effect on the nutritional value of a particular food. This is because the food will absorb more oil and increase the calories of the food. It is also true that frying in saturated fat is less healthy than using monounsaturated fats like olive oil.
Back to the study: the researchers found that there were 606 heart-disease-related events and 1,134 deaths during the study follow-up period. They found no association between the large amounts of fried foods eaten and the risk of heart disease or death. Remember that eating fried food is still not the healthiest way to go every day. But if you do have a meal or two a week that involves frying, reach for olive or sunflower oil.
To learn about other health benefits of olive oil, read the article The Power of Olive Oil.