Spanish researchers observe a protective effect only among individuals with low olive oil consumption.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of hypertension, but only among individuals with a low intake of olive oil, according to a prospective study of a population following a Mediterranean-type diet.

The study, conducted by Jorge M. Nuñez-Cordoba, MD, and colleagues at the University of Navarra in Spain, examined the relationship between fruit-and-vegetable consumption and hypertension risk based on subjects’ olive oil consumption.

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Of the 8,594 participants (mean age 41.1 years) initially free of hypertension, 426 cases of hypertension developed over a median follow-up of 49.3 months.

Among subjects who had a low intake of olive oil (less than 15 grams per day), individuals who consumed five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day had a significant 44% reduced risk of hypertension compared with subjects who consumed two servings or fewer per day, the researchers reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2009;63:605-612). Dr. Nunez-Cordoba’s group observed no risk reduction in among subjects who consumed 15 grams or more of olive oil per day.

According to the investigators, individuals with high olive oil intake already could be at low risk for hypertension, so the protective effect of fruits and vegetables may not be as apparent as it is among subjects with a low intake of olive oil.