The study, “Effects of Olive Oil Consumption on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Patients with Fibromyalgia,” was published in the journal Nutrients.
A previous study by researchers in Spain suggested that women with fibromyalgia are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease due to thrombosis (blood clots that can block blood vessels). This risk was related to altered blood-clotting parameters, including red blood cell and platelet counts, platelet distribution width (PDW; a measure of platelet size variability), mean platelet volume, and levels of fibrinogen protein — which promotes coagulation.
Olive oil, a key component of the Mediterranean diet, has been associated with protection against cardiovascular disease, thrombosis, and inflammation. The beneficial properties of olive oil are thought to be related to its high content of a type of healthy fat called monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs.
Both types of olive oil — extra virgin if produced by crushing and pressing the olives, and refined if treated — have the same composition of MUFAs and differ mostly in minor components.
This same Spanish team has now investigated the effects of the two types of olive oil on thrombosis and inflammation markers associated with cardiovascular risk in women with fibromyalgia.
The study enrolled 30 participants, 15 of whom were asked to consume 50 mL of organic extra virgin olive oil per day, while the other 15 consumed the same daily amount of organic refined olive oil, for a total of three weeks.
Ages were similar between the two groups — approximately 54.1 years in the extra virgin olive oil group and 49.8 years in those taking refined olive oil. No patient was aware of what kind of olive oil they were consuming.
Results showed that consumption of extra virgin olive oil caused a reduction in red blood cell count and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR; an inflammation marker) of fibromyalgia patients compared with values at the start of the study. Women who consumed refined olive oil experienced increased mean platelet volume, but decreased PDW, fibrinogen levels, ESR, and neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio — also an indicator of inflammation.
Additionally, PDW values declined significantly with refined olive oil compared with women taking extra virgin oil. Levels of cortisol — a key hormone in metabolism, immune response, and response to stress — decreased with extra virgin oil, but increased in the refined oil group.
Overall, as in the team’s previous study, women with fibromyalgia showed higher fibrinogen, PDW, and red blood cell counts, as well as lower platelet volume, than healthy people; these results “show that olive oil may return altered levels compared to those of the healthy controls,” the researchers wrote.
In addition, the decrease in ESR seen with both types of olive oil contrasts with the elevated levels of this inflammation marker seen in women with fibromyalgia in another prior study by the same team.
“The results of this preliminary study have revealed, for the first time, that consumption of both [extra virgin olive oil] and ROO [refined olive oil] may improve a number of cardiovascular risk markers in patients with [fibromyalgia], evidencing the antithrombotic and antiinflammatory properties of olive oil,” the scientists wrote.
Suggesting that the benefits of olive oil in fibromyalgia may be due to its abundance of MUFAs, the researchers added that “these findings recommend the consumption of olive oil as adjuvant for the prevention and/or treatment of cardiovascular diseases in patients with [fibromyalgia].”