Hypertension is one of the major public health problems of the XXI century and the leading cause of death and disability in developed countries. The extra virgin olive oil and Mediterranean cuisine can help combat hypertension, as they provide the nutrients needed to regulate blood pressure.
The first step to prevent hypertension is to follow a healthy diet. Several studies like PREDIMED have established a relationship between the consumption of polyphenols (main source of antioxidants) and a low risk of suffering hypertension. And the Mediterranean diet is full of food rich in polyphenols: vegetables, olive oil, nuts, tea, red wine or fruit.
The variety of different products we eat and the preference for the fresh, seasonal and minimally processed ones, ensure a wide variety of nutrients and can maximize the positive effects of our food.
Benefits of extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) contains a large amount of polyphenols (100-600 mg / kg) that have a large effect on its stability and nutritional characteristics. The phenolic content of extra virgin olive oil is influenced by the variety, location, degree of maturity and type of extraction procedure used. Also, the phenolic compounds are removed when the olive oil is refined so we should always choose extra virgin olive oil.
Consuming extra virgin olive oil with a higher proportion of polyphenols decreases oxidative stress and systemic inflammation through their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and olives must also be present on a healthy diet as they are good sources of healthy fats, protein, natural antioxidants and fiber.
Eating more of vegetables and fish and less red meat is also recommended. Eggs (not more than four per week), foods with a high sugar level and fat should be consumed in small amounts and only occasionally.
Polyphenols and PREDIMED
The PREDIMED study valued the effect of polyphenols on blood pressure in 263 men and 325 women with high cardiovascular risk and aged between 55 and 80 years. Among individuals with a higher index of polyphenols detected, the risk of hypertension decreased by 36% compared to those with a lower level of polyphenols in its organism.
Another study, also related with PREDIMED, assigned 1,139 participants with high cardiovascular risk a diet low in fat and two variants of the Mediterranean diet: one supplemented with extra virgin olive oil and another one with nuts.
It was proved that Mediterranean diet both supplemented with extra virgin olive olive oil and nuts helped raising the total amount of polyphenols. Thus, a high rate of these resulted in a positive effect on blood pressure in an elderly population.
PREDIMED results have corroborated therefore that a diet with foods rich in polyphenols (such as the Mediterranean diet and, especially, extra virgin olive oil and nuts) can be key in the prevention and treatment of hypertension.