You may know that I'm not a big fan of fat. In fact, I recommend my patients keep their fat intake to just 10% of the calories they eat. And I'm especially wary of processed fats, like vegetable oil. However, there is a processed fat that can scrub your arteries clean.

Researchers recently studied 199 people, average age 67, at high risk of arterial disease. Those at the highest end of olive oil use showed a 92% reduced risk of thickening of the all-important inner/middle portions of their carotid arteries.

We don't want our arteries getting thicker with gunk! And olive oil can keep your arteries clean and healthy. Olive oil happens to have many wonderful plant chemicals that protect you. These include anti-oxidants and phytosterols.

Phytosterols are a cholesterol-like molecules. Plants use these for stability of their cell membranes in a similar fashion to animals using cholesterol. Only the phytosterols you ingest compete with your ingestion of cholesterol for absorption. So your net effect of eating plants containing phytosterols is a naturally lower cholesterol. That's why olive oil is so good for your arteries.

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We've known for decades that olive oil protects your heart and helps prevent heart attacks. But now here's another great reason to substitute a little olive oil for the bad fats in your diet. And you don't need a lot of it to find the protection. Just a little bit goes a long way - especially if you're at risk for arterial disease.

Ref: "Carotid intima-media thickness is inversely associated with olive oil consumption," Buil-Cosiales PB, Irimia P, et al, Atherosclerosis, 2008, 196(2): 742-748.

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