We cook with it regularly, and occasionally may even dip our crunchy bread into it… but did you know olive oil has countless ways to improve our health and research is revealing even more, almost on a daily basis.
It’s an essential ingredient to a Mediterranean diet – one of the world’s longest living cultures. And it’s no wonder when extra virgin olive oil is the only cooking oil that is made without the use of chemicals and industrial refining.
So when you replace butter and other less health fats with olive oil, what can you expect?
Olive oil lowers the levels of total blood cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides. At the same time it does not alter the levels of HDL-cholesterol (and may even raise them), which plays a protective role and prevents the formation of fatty patches, thus stimulating the elimination of the low-density lipoproteins.
The phytonutrient in olive oil, oleocanthal, mimics the effect of ibuprofen in reducing inflammation, which can decrease the risk of breast cancer and its recurrence. Squalene and lignans are among the other olive oil components being studied for their possible effects on cancer.
Olive oil is rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin E, long thought to minimize cancer risk. Among plant oils, olive oil is the highest in monounsaturated fat, which doesn’t oxidize in the body, and it’s low in polyunsaturated fat, the kind that does oxidize.
Recent studies indicate that regular consumption of olive oil can help decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
It has been demonstrated that a diet that is rich in olive oil, low in saturated fats, moderately rich in carbohydrates and soluble fiber from fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains is the most effective approach for diabetics. It helps lower “bad” low-density lipoproteins while improving blood sugar control and enhances insulin sensitivity.
Although high in calories, olive oil has shown to help reduce levels of obesity.
Although the reasons are still not fully clear, recent studies have proved that people with diets containing high levels of olive oil are less likely to develop rheumatiod arthritis.
A high consumption of olive oil appears to improve bone mineralization and calcification. It helps calcium absorption and so plays an important role in aiding sufferers and in preventing the onset of Osteoporosis.
OLIVE OIL DIET REDUCES RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES
Traditionally a low-fat diet has been prescribed to prevent various diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. While studies have shown that high fat diets may increase the risk of certain diseases such as cancer and diabetes, it appears that it is the type of fat that counts rather than the amount of fat. We now know that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats such as the ones found in olive oil, nuts and seeds actually protects from many of these chronic diseases.
A study published in the scientific journal Diabetes Care showed that a Mediterranean style diet rich in olive oil reduced the risk of type II diabetes by almost 50 percent compared to a low fat diet. Type II diabetes is the most common and preventable form of diabetes.
OLIVE OIL MIGHT HELP PREVENT STROKES
Older individuals who consume olive oil daily may be able to protect themselves from a stroke, according to a new study from France published in the online issue of Neurology.
Researchers gathered information from the medical records of 7,625 individuals over the age of 65 from three cities in France: Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier. None of the participants had a history of stroke. They then categorized the individuals into three groups based on their olive oil consumption. The researchers noted that the participants used mostly extra virgin olive oil, as that is what is usually available in France.
After 5 years there were 148 strokes. The results showed that the “intensive” users of olive oil, those that used for both cooking and dressings had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those that did not use olive oil at all. These results were noted even after considering weight, diet, physical activity and other risk factors.
OLIVE OIL KEEPS THE HEART YOUNG
A diet rich in olive oil may actually be able to slow down the aging of the heart.
It is a known fact that as we grow older the heart also goes through a normal aging process. The arteries may not function as well as they did and this can lead to a number of health problems. However, in a recent study, Spanish researchers discovered that a diet rich in olive oil or other monounsaturated fats could improve the arterial function of elderly individuals.
OLIVE OIL FIGHTS OSTEOPOROSIS
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by a decrease in bone mass, which in turn causes the architecture of bone tissue to become fragile. This can then increase the possibly of fractures, making even the slightest of knocks potentially fatal for sufferers.
Olive oil supplementation was found to positively affect the thickness of bones. Olive oil will not be the only solution in the continuing fight against postmenopausal osteoporosis, however scientists have concluded that it is a very promising candidate for future treatments of the disease.
OLIVE OIL MAY PROTECT FROM DEPRESSION
It is common knowledge that olive oil and the Mediterranean diet confer a multitude of health benefits. But what about emotional health benefits?
According to Spanish researchers from the University of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, a diet rich in olive oil can protect from mental illness.
Researchers recently discovered that a higher intake of olive oil and polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish and vegetable oils was associated with a lower risk of depression. The findings suggested that cardiovascular disease and depression may share some common mechanisms related to one's diet.
OLIVE OIL FOUND TO HELP PREVENT SKIN CANCER
Another recent study found that olive oil, along with other components of a Mediterranean diet, may contribute to the prevention of malignant melanoma. The most dangerous type of skin cancer may be slowed down by consumption of olive oil, which is rich in antioxidants, the researchers found.
The use of sunscreen remains the best way to prevent sunburn and shield the skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. However, “Going Greek” and consuming olive oil and other Mediterranean food staples, could help counter the oxidizing effect of the sun.
Only three in every 100,000 residents of countries in the Mediterranean develop any form of skin cancer. The figure is low, especially when considering the warm climate in the region. In Australia, the figure is 50 in every 100,000 residents.
THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET AND METABOLIC SYNDROME
The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been cited in numerous studies, and now with a new large study confirming that it protects from metabolic syndrome we have yet another reason to adopt this style of eating.
The metabolic syndrome is a combination of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and high blood sugar. “Metabolic syndrome is connected to the obesity epidemic of our time, a big belly poisons our metabolism and a poisoned metabolism can result in type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, or sudden death,” a leading researcher noted.
The new study found that a Mediterranean-style diet -- which includes olive oil, daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and low-fat dairy products, weekly consumption of ﬁsh, poultry, legumes, and a relatively low consumption of red meat -- can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.
EXPLAINING WHY VIRGIN OLIVE OIL PROTECTS AGAINST BREAST CANCER
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Western countries. While a diet rich in fats is directly related to a higher incidence of cancer, some types of fats can actually play a protective role against the development of these tumors. Such is the case of virgin olive oil which is rich in oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, and contains several bioactive compounds such as antioxidants.
A moderate and regular intake of virgin olive oil, characteristic of the Mediterranean diet, is associated with a low incidences of specific types of cancer, including breast cancer, as well as with having a protective role against coronary diseases and other health problems.
OLIVE OIL CAN REDUCE THE RISK OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Numerous studies, including one recently published in the journal Chemical Neuroscience, showed that the oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil has the potential to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and the cognitive decline that comes with aging.