We've championed the health benefits of olive oil for a long time and the health rewards of the Mediterranean diet are well documented. After all, the Italians have one the highest life expectancies in the world. Recent studies are drilling down on what exactly makes extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) such an essential part of a healthy diet, and are revealing some interesting secrets about the ancient oil.
There is a reason why countries where olive oil is the principal fat consumed have the lowest rates of heart disease. Olive oil reduces cholesterol and the formation of blood clots, resulting in lower incidents of heart failure. But if you didn’t grow up with an Italian nonna pouring EVOO over everything, don’t worry. Adding it to your diet even after a coronary event has been shown to reduce the risk of a repeat event, regardless of whatever else you eat.
Life expectancies in the Western world are increasing, yet neurodegenerative diseases are on the rise and placing a heavy burden on health services, patients and their families. EVOO contains compounds, which improve brain function and protect against oxidative stress, a main contributor to the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
With more and more research hailing the cancer fighting properties of EVOO, the focus has turned to oleocanthal, a chemical produced by the olive when it is crushed to make the pulp from which the oil is pressed. New studies are receiving promising results of the effects of oleocanthal on cancerous cells, while leaving healthy cells undamaged. Though still in the early stages of research, things are looking promising for the use of oleocanthal as a treatment on cancers such as melanoma, colorectal and breast cancers.
That magical compound oleocanthal also works as an anti-inflammatory. With chronic inflammation thought to be the main driver of many serious diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and even depression, adding a daily teaspoon of olive oil to your diet is much more flavoursome and sustainable than popping pharmaceuticals.
Over 300 million people worldwide are diagnosed with Type II diabetes, with this number expected to double over the next 15 years. A major cause of death in developed countries, diabetes leads to serious health complications including kidney failure and blindness. There is hope however, as a diet rich in olive oil is associated with improved blood sugar control, meaning you feel fuller longer, and increased insulin sensitivity. This not only helps prevent the onset of Type II diabetes, but can also help those already diagnosed to control or treat it.
With so many amazing health benefits, not to mention to delicious flavour - extra virgin olive oil is truly a medicine food. If you don't already, why not consider supplementing less healthy oils with fresh, cold pressed EVOO.