By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA
Olive Oil Health Benefits and Nutrition
Olive Oil Health Benefits
The health benefits of olive oil are extensive with new positive attributes discovered all the time. One prominent cardiologist recommends at least two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day to enjoy the many ways olive oil can be beneficial to your health and well being.
In addition to bolstering the immune system and helping to protect against viruses, olive oil has also been found to be effective in fighting against diseases such as:
Cancer: 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.
Heart Disease: Olive oil helps lower levels of blood cholesterol leading to heart disease.
Oxidative Stress: 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.
Blood Pressure: Recent studies indicate that regular consumption of olive oil can help decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Diabetes: 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.
Obesity: Although high in calories, olive oil has shown to help reduce levels of obesity.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: 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.
Osteoporosis: 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 Might Help Prevent Strokes
According to a new study from France, older individuals who consume olive oil daily may be able to protect themselves from a stroke. The study which is part of the Three-City Study, an ongoing multicenter study of vascular risk factors for dementia, was 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 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 recent Spanish study published in the scientific journal Diabetes Care showed that a Mediterranean style diet rich in olive oil reduces 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 Keeps the Heart Young
A diet rich in olive oil may 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.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, compared the effect of a Mediterranean style diet rich in olive oil with that of a low fat high carbohydrate diet and a diet rich in saturated fats and concluded that the diet rich in olive oil resulted in the reduction of endothelial damage and dysfunction.
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.
The disease is recognized as being particularly prevalent among postmenopausal women for whom a decrease in the production of estrogen then weakens bone structures and most commonly affects the ribs, wrists, and hips. For this study, scientists were particularly interested in how a supplementation of olive oil could be used to help women in this category.
Tests were carried out on rats showing comparable conditions to female human menopause, with one group being treated orally with olive oil. At the end of the experiment, blood samples were collected and tested for levels of calcium, phosphorus, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), malondialdehyde (MDA), and nitrates.
The results found that that rats not treated with olive oil showed a significant decrease in calcium levels and a significant increase in plasma ALP, MDA, and nitrates levels.
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.
The study included 12,059 volunteers who were part of the SUN Project, a prospective study among Spanish university alumni, aimed to identify the dietary determinants of stroke, coronary disease and other disorders. The researchers followed these volunteers for over 6 years and gathered data on lifestyle factors such as diet as well as medical history. At the beginning of the study none of the volunteers suffered from depression, and by the end of the study, 657 new cases were detected.
The data revealed that volunteers that had a high intake of trans fats, a hydrogenated fat found mainly in processed foods, had up to 48 percent increased risk of depression compared to volunteers who did not consume these fats . In addition, the researchers 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. According to the researchers these findings suggest that cardiovascular disease and depression may share some common mechanisms related to diet.
Olive Oil Found to Help Prevent Skin Cancer
A study conducted by Dr. Niva Shapira from Tel Aviv University in Israel and Bob Kuklinski of Rockstock University in Germany found that olive oil, along with other components of a Mediterranean diet, may contribute to the prevention of malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma, which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, may be slowed down by consumption of olive oil, which is rich in antioxidants.
The research showed that the body develops a resistance to the damaging rays of the sun due to carotenoids. Carotenoids are the color pigments found in fruits and vegetables such as watermelons, tomatoes, pumpkins and carrots. Olive oil has also been found to protect the skin against the damaging effects of UV rays.
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.
Dr. Antonis Pothoulakis, an interventional cardiologist at the Iasis Clinic in Chania, Crete told Olive Oil Times that 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,” he said.
The new study included data from almost 535,000 people, with the conclusion that a Mediterranean style diet, which includes consumption of monounsaturated fats mainly in the form of 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, may 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. Research carried out with animal models demonstrate that a diet rich in fats is directly related to the incidence of cancer. Some types of fats however can play a protective role against the development of these tumors. Such is the case of virgin olive oil, rich in oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, and containing several bioactive compounds such as antioxidants. A moderate and regular intake of virgin olive oil, characteristic of the Mediterranean diet, is associated with 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.