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Olive oil and the Mediterranean diet: beyond the rhetoric


Objective: The purpose of this study was to analyze the association of food, nutrient and energy intakes with olive oil consumption in Spain.

Design: Cross-sectional study by face-to-face interview.

Setting: Population-based random sample derived from the Catalan Nutrition Survey.

Subjects: In total, 1600 individuals between 18 and 60 y of age.

Intervention: Two 24-h recalls were administered to measure food and nutrient intakes. Food consumption and nutrient intakes were analyzed comparing the highest and lowest quartiles of olive oil consumption.

Results: Those with the highest consumption of olive oil (greater than 13.5% of total calories, fourth quartile) consumed less cereal, baked goods, whole milk, sausages, candy, fruit juice and soft drinks, but more fish, eggs, vegetables and added fats, as compared to those with the lowest olive oil consumption (less than 6.8% of total calories, first quartile). The group with the greatest olive oil consumption also demonstrated high total fat intake, although saturated fats showed a lower percentage of total energy intake. Vitamin intake was more adequate in those with the highest consumption of olive oil.

Conclusion: Olive oil is a key contributor to the healthy aspects attributed to the Mediterranean diet, and as such, nutritional objectives in Mediterranean countries should address reducing saturated fats, without modifying quantities of olive oil.

Sponsorship: Catalan Department of Health.

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Contributiors: Ll S-M Contributed to the study design, data analysis, paper preparation and writing. Data analysis and paper preparation was carried out by JN and LR, and JA T Contributed to paper preparation and discussion.

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Correspondence to Ll Serra-Majem.

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Serra-Majem, L., Ngo de la Cruz, J., Ribas, L. et al. Olive oil and the Mediterranean diet: beyond the rhetoric. Eur J Clin Nutr 57, S2–S7 (2003).

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  • olive oil
  • Mediterranean diet
  • food consumption
  • nutrient intake
  • dietary guidelines
  • obesity

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