Background & aims: Hypertension is one of the most important risk factors for coronary heart disease. Recent studies have pointed out the possibility that virgin olive oil (VOO) may lower blood pressure in hypertensive (HT) subjects. However, until the date there is scarce information regarding elderly people. The present study was designed to assess the effect of dietary VOO on blood pressure in medically treated hypertensive elderly patients.
Methods: 31 medically treated HT elderly patients and 31 normotensive (NT) elderly volunteers participated in a randomized sequential dietary intervention. Subjects consumed diets enriched in sunflower oil (SO) or VOO for 4 weeks each with a 4-week washout period between them.
Results: VOO reduced total and LDL-cholesterol in NT but not in HT (P < 0.01) and the concentrations were lower than in the group consuming SO. In contrast, no significant differences were found in the levels of tocopherols among the groups studied. Iron-induced oxidation of LDL resulted in a complete loss of monoacylglycerols (MG) and diacylglycerols (DG) and a reduction in triacylglycerols (TG) (60-80%), which was found to be greater in HT (P < 0.01) with no effect of diet. VOO consumption normalized systolic pressure in the HT group (136 +/- 10 mmHg) compared to SO (150 +/- 8 mmHg).
Conclusion: Dietary VOO proved to be helpful in reducing the systolic pressure of treated HT elderly subjects. However, a greater resistance to the lowering effect of VOO of total and LDL-cholesterol and a greater susceptibility to TG oxidation was detected in these patients.