New research suggests that consuming lots of olive oil is associated with a reduced risk of ischemic stroke.

A study published on-line Wednesday in the journal Neurology looked at olive-oil consumption among more than 7,600 people ages 65 and older in three French cities who had taken part in what’s known as the Three-City Study. After controlling for diet, lifestyle and stroke-risk factors, they found that “intensive” olive-oil users (those who used it for cooking and dressing their food) had a 41 percent reduced risk of ischemic (the kind caused by an artery blockage) stroke during the five-year follow-up period than those who reported using no olive oil at all.

The association did not hold true for hemorrhagic stroke (the kind caused by a ruptured blood vessel in the brain), in part because not enough of those strokes occurred among the people in the study to make a statistically valid connection.

It’s not clear whether it is the olive oil itself, or the oleic acid it contains, or some other quality of the golden liquid that might confer protection. Nor is it clear whether it’s the olive oil alone or olive oil as a component of the overall Mediterranean Diet that may be protective against stroke. The Mediterranean Diet, which is filled with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and healthful fats, is commonplace among people in the region studied here; the diet as a whole has been found to be beneficial to the cardiovascular system.