Olive oil, the keystone food of the Mediterranean diet, helps prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, inflammation, skin aging, and cognitive decline. The powerful protection of olive oil reduces the causes of death and the effect of aging. It an essential ingredient for this longevity diet.
Olive oil is certainly not new to us, but the health benefits increase if we completely eliminate butter and related products and increase the use of olive oil. This is especially true for the first press of extra virgin olive oil that has higher polyphenols which in turn combat inflammation. Why is inflammation bad? Its present with and worsens chronic diseases which is correlated with premature illness and death.
How does it help our cardiovascular system? We know from studies that it decreases overall cholesterol and low-density lipo-protein(LDL). “One of the key polyphenols in olive oil—hydroxytyrosol helps protect the cells that line our blood vessels from being damaged by overly reactive oxygen molecules. Hydroxytyrosol helps protect the blood vessel cells by triggering changes at a genetic level”(1). I find it amazing that genetic changes can occur. But, we are still learning about how profound the effect is of this oil. In other words, olive oil not only lowers cholesterol, but the oil protects the inside of the cell wall from damage.
Can it really help to prevent cancer? A Life Extension study states olive oil reduces the risk of many types of cancer. The oleic acid in it interferes with the triggering of certain genes that play a key role in cancer. They mention evidence of its preventative effect on breast cancer cells by suppressing the breast cancer gene HER2. “It switches off the proteins that cancer cells rely on to survive and multiply.(2)” It suppresses the gene that drives tumor growth. So, if you’re a woman, this is a wonderful extra benefit.
There is some preliminary evidence that olive oil can reducing aging of the skin. However, further study is needed before solid claims can be made. Life Extension reports, “Scientists linked oleo-canthal, found in olive oil, to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.” This occurs as a result of increasing the transfer of proteins in the brain. This benefit is so promising that it may lead to olive oil based therapy for Alzheimer’s.
When I started following the Mediterranean diet, I increased my olive oil intake. Rather than steam my veggies, I now saute them in olive oil. My salad dressing is olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar. And I use the oil for dipping sourdough–no more butter forever. In terms of eating actual olives, the curing process adds sodium while removing a lot of the polyphenols. So, the olives are not as beneficial as the oil itself. If including olive oil in your routine diet requires too many changes, studies say it’s okay to take 1 to 2 tablespoons a day(3). If it seems odd to drink oil at first, remember it’s all about your health and longevity. L. Johnson of www.creativeretirementforwomen.com
(1)WhFoods staff(no date) “Olive oil, extra virgin” Retrieved on 7-15-2015 from: website: www.whfoods.com/genpage.php/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&bid=132 (2)Downey, M.(Aug.2014) “Olive Oil” Life Extension Magazine. Retrieved on 7-15-2015 from website: www.lifeextension.com//Magazine/2014/8/Olive-Oil-Powerful-Protection-Against-Aging-And-Mortality/Page-01 (3)Busch, S. (no date) “The benefits of 1 to 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil Per Day” Retrieved on 7-15-2015 from website: www.healthyeating.sfgage.com/benefits-1-2-tablespoons-olive-oil-per-day-9046.html