Feature Archive

Say No to Olive Oil?

Questioning a good fat.

WebMD Feature

May 19, 2000 -- Could olive oil -- long considered the healthiest fat around -- be as bad for us as cheeseburgers or creamy desserts?

That's the jaw-dropping conclusion of University of Maryland heart specialist Robert Vogel, MD. At the March meeting of the American College of Cardiology, he stunned the nutrition world by warning that olive oil could be as dangerous to your heart and arteries as a Big Mac or a giant piece of cheesecake. "If you've been using olive oil because you think it's healthy," says Vogel, "it's time to think again."

Olive Oil? Bad for Your Heart?

Unfortunately, we've grown used to this kind of dietary flip-flop. Many Americans have begun to wonder if even the experts know what they're talking about. One day margarine is good for you, the next it's bad. One day vitamin E protects against heart disease, the next it offers no benefit at all. Now it's olive oil's turn.

Vogel tested the effects of three different meals on a group of 10 volunteers who had normal cholesterol levels. One meal consisted of canola oil and bread. Another was olive oil and bread. The third meal was a piece of salmon. All three meals contained 50 grams of fat.

But their effect on blood vessels was very different. Before and again three hours after each meal, Vogel's team measured constriction of the volunteers' arteries. Sharp constriction can injure the inner lining of blood vessels, according to Vogel.