The Mediterranean diet has long been hailed by experts as heart-healthy and nutritious. One of the main reasons is olive oil.
Numerous studies have shown that including extra virgin olive oil in your diet has health benefits, thanks in part to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity associated with its phenolic compounds.
According to a 2022 study in the Caspian Journal of Environmental Sciences, “The unsaturated fatty acids in olive oil reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure.”
The study says that the main olive oil source countries are Spain, Italy and Greece, and that these countries have less colon, breast and prostate cancer, less Alzheimer’s disease and increased life expectancy compared to people in northern Europe .
But a 2023 study in Nature says that not all olive oils are created equal. After tracking the results of more than 12,000 subjects for an average of 10.7 years, the researchers said that “daily moderate consumption of extra virgin olive oil (1-1/2 tablespoons) was associated with a one-third lower risk of all causes. as half the risk of cardiovascular mortality. These effects are not seen with regular olive oil.
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a study led by Harvard researchers that analyzed data from 28 years of the Nurses’ Health Study, looking at data on 60,582 women combined with 31,801 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study in the same years, 1990-2018. When the studies began, all were free of heart disease and cancer. They each fill out a diet questionnaire every four years.
The researchers concluded that those with the highest olive oil intake had a 19% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, while a 17% lower risk of cancer death. They also had a 29% lower risk of death from neurodegenerative disease and an 18% lower risk of death from respiratory disease.
The researchers wrote that “replacing margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and dairy fat with olive oil was associated with a lower risk of mortality.”
Healthline outlines a number of research-based benefits of olive oil, starting with its fat content, which is primarily oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. It is thought to reduce inflammation and some say it reduces the risk of cancer, although different studies have different findings about cancer.
Olive oil also contains antioxidants, potentially reducing the risk of chronic disease, among other potential health benefits, the article said.
It also notes that “buying the right kind of olive oil is extremely important.” The article suggests reading the ingredient list and checking for a quality certificate, as some labeled “extra virgin” have been diluted with other refined oils.
Replace, don’t smear
Because olive oil is quite high in calories, health experts told The New York Times that olive oil should not be simply poured over or in foods. Rather, it should be used as a substitute for “less healthy sources of fat — especially butter and full-fat dairy products, which contain saturated fat, which can raise LDL levels.”
Times experts suggest aiming for no more than three or four tablespoons of olive oil a day, “as this amount is associated with the greatest benefit.” Nor, writes Times reporter Danny Blum, should people think that olive oil alone will make a difference in health.
Other experts point out that butter, in moderation, is part of a healthy diet. “Moderate amounts of saturated fat, like what you find in butter, can also be part of a healthy diet, and butter also contains nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins,” Jessica Tichenall, PhD, clinical nutritionist and certified nutritionist, said Wellandgood. com. She said that butter and olive oil are different fats, “so sometimes it just won’t work in a dish if one is substituted for the other. “Both butter and olive oil can be included in a healthy diet,” the article states.
Spain and stolen olive oil
A bit of weird olive oil news came out this week with reports that in Spain, the biggest producer of olive oil, supermarkets are “locking up bottles of the essential cooking oil as prices soar and thefts increase,” according to Reuters.
The article said one-liter bottles sell for the equivalent of nearly $16 in some stores, “driving olive oil into the category of retailers with products equipped with protective labels, along with cosmetics, spirits and appliances.”
It said the price of olive oil had “jumped 150% in the past two years in Spain as a severe drought in the south disrupted the olive harvest. Organized crime groups steal the oil to resell it.”