Olive oil is not just good for your heart; it’s good for other body systems, too. Substituting about one tablespoon of olive oil per day for butter, margarine and other types of fats and oils can lower your risk of death from heart or lung conditions as well as cancer and brain disorders, suggests a new study.

Olive oil is a monounsaturated oil that is heart-friendly and reduces inflammation. A central component of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil has been shown to help lower your total cholesterol level, as well as your LDL (bad) cholesterol, and may enhance the function of blood vessels. Studies have also shown it can help control insulin and blood sugar levels.

Using 10 grams of olive oil per day instead of margarine, butter, mayonnaise, dairy fat and other fats led to an eight to 34 percent lower risk of death from all causes.

To investigate the relationship between the use of olive oil and death rates, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed data collected from over 92,000 men and women who were participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All of the people in the current study were free of cancer and cardiovascular disease when data collection began in 1990.

Participants filled out a questionnaire about their diets every four years for the next 28 years. The questionnaire asked how often they consumed certain foods and the types and brand names of oils they had cooked with or added at the table during the previous year.

Each person’s total olive oil intake was estimated by adding together the amount of olive oil used as salad dressing, the amount added to food or bread, and the amount used for baking or frying at home. The use of other vegetable oils was calculated from the reported oil brand and type of fat used in cooking at home.

After dividing the participants into groups according to their use of olive oil, the study found that those who consumed the most olive oil had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (19 percent), cancer (17 percent), degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s (29 percent), and lung diseases (18 percent) when compared to those who consumed the least amount of olive oil.

Olive oil consumption rose over the 28 years of the study. Dietary olive oil increased from 1.6 grams per day in 1990 to 4 grams per day in 2010, while margarine consumption fell from roughly 12 grams per day to 4 grams a day in the same time period. The use of other fats remained about the same. A tablespoon of olive oil is equivalent to roughly 12.5 grams.

Using 10 grams of olive oil per day instead of margarine, butter, mayonnaise, dairy fat and other fats led to an eight to 34 percent lower risk of death from all causes. No link was found between substituting olive oil for other types of vegetable oils.

“Our findings support current dietary recommendations to increase the intake of olive oil and other unsaturated vegetable oils,” Marta Guasch-Ferr, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement. “Clinicians should be counseling patients to replace certain fats, such as margarine and butter, with olive oil to improve their health. Our study helps make more specific recommendations that will be easier for patients to understand and hopefully implement into their diets.”

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.