Benefits of extra virgin olive oil

©2014 Francesca Kontea, Clinical Dietrician & Nutritionist

For over 3000 years Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has been characterised as ‘liquid gold’. Nowadays there is accumulating scientific evidence showing that EVOO consumption may benefit our health in numerous ways. Some of the most important attributes of EVOO is that it may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, as well as Type 2 Diabetes.
Scientists now widely recognise that having some fat in the diet is crucial in many developmental processes through life, such as physical growth and hormone production. However it is now becoming increasingly apparent that eating the right types of fat may be more important to health than the overall amount of fat consumed. The World Health Organisation(WHO) is currently encouraging people to not only review the total dietary fat intake, but to also consider the types of fat consumed. A healthy balanced diet including EVOO consumption has been shown to be more beneficial to cognition and reduction of blood pressure, incidence of stroke and heart attack than low fat diets. But, what components of this ‘liquid gold’ are having such an effect?
Oleocanthal a compound found in Olives and Olive Oil has been found to mimic the action of the anti-inflammatory drug Ibuprofen. It is therefore thought of by scientists as a natural anti-inflammatory compound that may be beneficial in the treatment of joint and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Researchers are also studying the possible positive role of Oleocanthal in the treatment of various types of cancer including breast cancer. In addition EVOO contains substantial levels of precious antioxidants which are shown to reduce oxidative stress and thereby also reducing the risk of cancer.
EVOO is high in Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats and low in saturated fats. It is widely recognised that a high consumption of saturated fatty acids found in meat and meat products, can have many negative health effects, such as increasing the risk of heart disease. Scientific literature indicates that the substitution of Saturated fats with Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated fats can lead to a wide range of health benefits including reduction of LDL cholesterol otherwise known as ‘Bad’ Cholesterol.
The WHO has also concluded that there is convincing evidence showing that substituting Carbohydrates with Monounsaturated fats can cause an increase in HDL, good cholesterol. Therefore EVOO may be an ideal choice for people following a low carbohydrate diet as long as recommended intake is not exceeded.
In conclusion there is a plethora of emerging scientific evidence showing how people may benefit their health by enriching their diet with EVOO. It is therefore apparent that one tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil per meal per day is a valuable investment in your cognition, cardiovascular and overall health. As a excellent source of Monounsaturated fats, EVOO should ideally be combined with foods such as fresh vegetables, avocados, nuts, grains as well as fish and specifically oily fish which are high in Polyunsaturated fats. It can be drizzled on salads, added to sauces, dips, casseroles, used in stir fries or for basting meat and fish.

 

References
Butte,N.F. (2000) ‘Fat intake of children in relation to energy requirements’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72 (5 Suppl), pp. 1246S.
Chan,W. (2000) ‘Nutrition requirements for children’, Practice Nursing, 11 (15), pp. 23-24.

Cicerale,S., Breslin,P.A.S., Beauchamp,G.K. and Keast,R.S.J. (2009) ‘Sensory characterization of the irritant properties of oleocanthal, a natural anti-inflammatory agent in extra virgin olive oils’, Chemical senses, 34 (4), pp. 333-339. doi:10.1093/chemse/bjp006.

Clodoveo,M.L., Camposeo,S., De Gennaro,B., Pascuzzi,S. and Roselli,L. (2014) ‘In the ancient world, virgin olive oil was called “liquid gold” by Homer and “the great healer” by Hippocrates. Why has this mythic image been forgotten?’, Food Research International, 62, pp. 1062-1068. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2014.05.034.

Colomer,R. & Menéndez,J.A. (2006) ‘Mediterranean diet, olive oil and cancer’, Clinical & translational oncology : official publication of the Federation of Spanish Oncology Societies and of the National Cancer Institute of Mexico, 8 (1), pp. 15-21. doi:10.1007/s12094-006-0090-0.

Dalen,J.E. & Devries,S. (2014; 2013) ‘Diets to prevent coronary heart disease 1957-2013: what have we learned?’, The American Journal of Medicine, 127 (5), pp. 364. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.12.014.

Escrich,E., Ramirez-Tortosa,M.C., Sanchez-Rovira,P., Colomer,R., Solanas,M., et al (2006) ‘Olive Oil in Cancer Prevention and Progression’, Nutrition reviews, 64 (Supplement 1), pp. 40-52. doi:10.1301/nr.2006.oct.S40-S52.

Guasch-Ferré,M., Hu,F.B., Martínez-González,M.A., Fitó,M., Bulló,M., et al (2014) ‘Olive oil intake and risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in the PREDIMED Study’, BMC medicine, 12 (1), pp. 78. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-12-78.

Hall,W.L. (2009) ‘Dietary saturated and unsaturated fats as determinants of blood pressure and vascular function’, Nutrition Research Reviews, 22 (1), pp. 18-38. doi:10.1017/S095442240925846X.

Hulbert,A.J., Turner,N., Storlien,L.H. and Else,P.L. (2005) ‘Dietary fats and membrane function: implications for metabolism and disease’, Biological Reviews, 80 (1), pp. 155-169. doi:10.1017/S1464793104006578.

Iacono,A., Gómez,R., Sperry,J., Conde,J., Bianco,G., et al (2010) ‘Effect of oleocanthal and its derivatives on inflammatory response induced by lipopolysaccharide in a murine chondrocyte cell line’, Arthritis and Rheumatism, 62 (6), pp. 1675.

Keast,R.S.J., Morel,D., Breslin,P.A.S., Pika,J., Beauchamp,G.K., et al (2005) ‘Phytochemistry Ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil’, Nature, 437 (7055), pp. 45-46. doi:10.1038/437045a.

Koletzko,B., Cetin,I., Thomas Brenna,J., European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition,Committee on Nutrition, International Federation of Placenta Associations, et al (2007) ‘Dietary fat intakes for pregnant and lactating women’, British Journal of Nutrition, 98 (5), pp. 873-877. doi:10.1017/S0007114507764747.

Li,W., Sperry,J.B., Crowe,A., Trojanowski,J.Q., Smith,3.,Amos B., et al (2009) ‘Inhibition of tau fibrillization by oleocanthal via reaction with the amino groups of tau’, Journal of neurochemistry, 110 (4), pp. 1339-1351. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2009.06224.x.

Muriana,F.J.G., Abia,R., Bermúdez,B., Pacheco,Y.M. and López,S. (2004) ‘Olive oil and cancer’, Grasas y Aceites, 55, pp. 33-41.
Oliveras-López,M., Berná,G., Jurado-Ruiz,E., López-García de la Serrana,H. and Martín,F. (2014) ‘Consumption of extra-virgin olive oil rich in phenolic compounds has beneficial antioxidant effects in healthy human adults’, Journal of Functional Foods, 10, pp. 475-484. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2014.07.013.

Parkinson,L. & Keast,R. (2014) ‘Oleocanthal, a phenolic derived from virgin olive oil: a review of the beneficial effects on inflammatory disease’, International journal of molecular sciences, 15 (7), pp. 12323-12334. doi:10.3390/ijms150712323.

Scarmeas,N., Stern,Y., Mayeux,R., Manly,J.J., Schupf,N., et al (2009) ‘Mediterranean Diet and Mild Cognitive Impairment’, Archives of Neurology, 66 (2), pp. 216-225. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2008.536.

Scotece,M., Gómez,R., Conde,J., Lopez,V., Gómez-Reino,J.J., et al (2012) ‘Further evidence for the anti-inflammatory activity of oleocanthal: inhibition of MIP-1α and IL-6 in J774 macrophages and in ATDC5 chondrocytes’, Life Sciences, 91 (23-24), pp. 1229-1235. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2012.09.012.

Sullivan,D. & Carlson,S.E. (2001) ‘Dietary fats for infants and children’, Pediatric annals, 30 (11), pp. 683.

Trichopoulou,A. (1995) ‘Olive Oil and Breast Cancer’, Cancer Causes & Control, 6 (6), pp. 475-476. doi:10.1007/BF00054153.
Uauy,R., Mize,C.E. and Castillo-Duran,C. (2000) ‘Fat intake during childhood: metabolic responses and effects on growth’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72 (5 Suppl), pp. 1354S.

Uauy,R. & Dangour,A.D. (2009) ‘Fat and Fatty Acid Requirements and Recommendations for Infants of 0-2 Years and Children of 2-18 Years’, Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 55 (1-3), pp. 76-96. doi:10.1159/000228997.

Visioli,F., Caruso,D., Grande,S., Bosisio,R., Villa,M., et al (2005) ‘Virgin Olive Oil Study (VOLOS): vasoprotective potential of extra virgin olive oil in mildly dyslipidemic patients’, European journal of nutrition, 44 (2), pp. 121-127. doi:10.1007/s00394-004-0504-0.

Visioli,F., Poli,A. and Gall,C. (2002) ‘Antioxidant and other biological activities of phenols from olives and olive oil’, Medicinal research reviews, 22 (1), pp. 65-75. doi:10.1002/med.1028.

World Health Organisation, W. (2010) (CVUCPFHCVV[CEKFU KPJWOCPPWVTKVKQP 4GRQTVQHCPGZRGTVEQPUWNVCVKQP (#1 (11. Available at: http://foris.fao.org/preview/25553-0ece4cb94ac52f9a25af77ca5cfba7a8c.pdf (Accessed: 8/9/2014).

 

Francesca Kontea

Francesca Kontea

Clinical Dietician & Nutritionist BSc (Hons), CRD, registered member of the HCPC and BDA

Miss Kontea graduated from the University of Surrey attaining a BSc (Hons.) degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She has undertaken placements in three district general hospitals in the United Kingdome as part of the Country’s National Health System’s (NHS) clinical training of dietitians.

She is now a Certified Registered Dietitian (CRD) at the British Health Care and Professions Council (HCPC) as well as a registered member of the British Dietetic Association(BDA). Miss Kontea is presently engaged in a postgraduate degree in Nutritional Medicine at the University of Surrey as well as maintaining her own private practice in Athens.