Health Benefits

Where’s the Science Behind the Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

The magic composition of extra virgin olive oil is the source of at least 30 phenolic compounds.  Phenolic compounds, or phenols, are substances that plants, such as fruits and vegetables, require for growth and reproduction.  These phenols have antioxidant properties and incorporating phenolic compounds into your diet may increase wellness and strengthen your immune system.  It is important to understand that the highest health benefits are derived from "extra virgin" olive oil, not grades called true olive oil, blended, light or pure olive oil.  It is "extra virgin" olive oil that offers the unique disease fighting compounds.

Antioxidants, a body’s best friend, are important for good health because they counteract the free radicals in our bodies that alter bodily tissues, therefore, protecting us from the oxidation of proteins and cellular plasma membranes.  In addition, extra virgin olive oil is the only dietary source of hydroxytyrosol, one of the 30 phenols, which slows the aging process in skin and strengthens fingernails and toenails.

True extra virgin olive oil should taste like fresh olives.  Also, one will find that unfiltered and unprocessed extra virgin olive oil has stronger flavor and a bit of bite at the back of the throat (particularly immediately following crush).  This indicates a high level of polyphenols including esters of tyrosol, hydroxytyrosol, oleocanthal and oleuropein.   Other healthful aldehydic secoiridoids, flavonoids and lignans are found in extra virgin olive oil. 

Specifically, oleocanthal from extra virgin olive oil is a non-selective inhibitor of cyclooxygenase which is like the widely known anti-inflammatory medicine, ibuprofen.  It has been suggested that this compound may be responsible in part for the low incidence of heart disease associated with a Mediterranean diet. 

These anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants have also been linked to reducing your chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis, stroke and certain cancers.  There are countless articles and documented research supporting that regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil, along with following the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, contribute significantly to a healthy life.

Besides containing the healthy phenols and antioxidants, olive oil lowers both LDL's and triglycerides along with total blood cholesterol, and it does not alter "the good" HDL levels.  It hinders the absorption of cholesterol and fosters the absorption of essential minerals like calcium and magnesium.  It also helps warding off gallstones and support the liver in excreting cholesterol. 

For a healthy digestive tract, incorporate olive oil into your diet as it also suppresses the reflux of food and gastric juices.  Olive oil enhances calcium absorption, helping in retaining bone mass and keeping osteoporosis at bay as well as aiding to bone formation and growth in infants and children.  Lastly, olive oil contributes to a healthy mind.  The International Olive Oil Council suggests that olive oil's high monounsaturated fat content may help maintain the structural integrity of brain cell membranes.  Higher structural integrity of brain cells can protect against different forms of congnitive decline, including memory loss, Alzheimer's and dementia. The council also noted that the more extra virgin olive oil a person consumes, the greater the protective effect on cognition will be. 

 

Resources:

 

Livestrong

International Olive Oil Council

Olive Oil Times

Wikipedia