chapter  7
14 Pages

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Blood Pressure

A New Approach to the Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease
ByAna Belén Segarra, Magdalena Martínez-Cañamero, Germán Domínguez-Vías, Marina Hidalgo, Manuel Ramírez-Sánchez, Isabel Prieto

At present, cardiovascular disease and hypertension are accepted as major health problems all over the world. The rapid rate of increase in these global problems needs a solution that includes the identification of the most effective prevention strategies that involve both dietary and lifestyle changes as well as drugs. The use of natural products and the diet could be an effective method of management of hypertension, and a lot of effort has been put into finding plants with antihypertensive therapeutic value. The DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) has been recommended since the last decade of the 20th century for the non-pharmacological management of hypertension, but other dietary patterns are useful to stop hypertension, such as the Mediterranean Diet. Different studies have demonstrated that when subjects adopt the Mediterranean Diet during at least one year, arterial blood pressure values are reduced. These effects are associated with the intake of virgin olive oil, the main fat source in the Mediterranean Diet. In experimental models, virgin olive oil is able to reduce arterial blood pressure, changing the membrane composition and biophysical properties, improving the endothelial function and enhancing the nitric oxide release. Virgin olive oil also has demonstrated effects on both systemic and local renin angiotensin pathways, the main hormonal system involved in the long-term control of blood pressure. These results point to virgin olive oil and the Mediterranean Diet as an effective dietary strategy in the prevention of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.