Besides adding that extra dash of taste to food, there’s no denying the various health benefits olive oil claims to offer. If a latest study is to be believed, then older people consuming olive oil may be safeguarding themselves from a stroke by doing so. The study included participants who were found to mainly consume extra virgin olive oil as that is what’s broadly available in France, up to 98 percent.

As part of the investigation, scientists observed the medical records of nearly 7,625 people aged 65 years and above. They were from three French cities – Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier. The participants reportedly had no stroke history. The consumption of olive oil was divided into categories of ‘no use’, ‘moderate use’ and ‘intensive use’. The second and third categories included use of the oil in cooking or as dressing or with bread, and use of the oil in both cooking and as a dressing or with bread respectively.

“Our research suggests that a new set of dietary recommendations should be issued to prevent stroke in people 65 and older,” mentioned study author Cécilia Samieri, PhD, with the University of Bordeaux and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Bordeaux, France. “Stroke is so common in older people and olive oil would be an inexpensive and easy way to help prevent it.”

The findings suggested that in a little over five years, there had been 148 strokes. Taking into consideration diet, BMI, physical activity and other risk factors for stroke, it was uncovered that individuals consuming olive oil regularly for cooking and dressing had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke. This was in comparison to the participants whose diet never comprised olive oil. It was 1.5 percent in six years compared to 2.6 percent.

Seemingly olive oil is linked with a number of possible protective effects against cardiovascular risk factors including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. An accompanying editorial saw Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, of Columbia University and a member of the American Academy of Neurology mentioning that the specific elements appearing to make olive oil protective are not clearly known. Furthermore, there could be indirect effects of olive oil like adding taste to healthy foods. He suggests future clinical trials alone to probably boost the confidence in these findings, leading to potential stroke prevention recommendations.

The June 15, 2011 online issue of Neurology features the study.