Olive Oil Could Help Repair Your Heart, So Add These Recipes to Your Menu

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Olive oil has long been considered a “good fat,” as long as it’s consumed in moderation — but now we’ve got even more of a reason to cook with it: According to a new study from researchers at the University of Illinois, olive oil might help repair your heart. I don’t mean metaphorical broken hearts — I mean actual, beating hearts that may be in danger of failing.

The details of the study, which was published in the journal Circulation, are a little unfortunate for the rats who served as its subjects; The Week reports that scientists removed failing hearts from rats in order to study the effects of fat on them. While keeping the hearts beating, they then treated some of them with a substance found in olive and canola oils called oleate; others were treated with palmitate, which is found in palm oil, animal fat, and dairy products. The results were markedly different: Said study author and director of the University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Cardiovascular Research E. Douglas Lewandowski to Time, “If we gave hearts that were failing palmitate, they basically looked like failing hearts.” We know from previous studies that healthy hearts absorb fat to keep pumping; damaged hearts, however, can’t process or store fat, which robs it of the energy it needs to function. The failing rat hearts couldn’t store or metabolize fat very well; indeed, the hearts weren’t even producing the enzymes that would help them metabolize fat.

The hearts that were given oleate, however, recovered, with the fat content returning to normal and the ability to metabolize it restored — and what’s more, it all happened in just half an hour. Said Lewandowski, “We didn’t think it would have such profound effects. When we think about normalizing the metabolism, it’s so far upstream of so many disease processes that it’s very exciting.” More research is needed to determine whether oleate has the same effect on human hearts — but the researchers are confident that it likely will.

In the meantime, here are a few ways to work some more olive oil into your diet. Who knew heart health could be so delicious?

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