Here are the five most scientifically supported health benefits of olive oil today:
- A healthy liver and heart: The Journal of the National Medical Association published a study ten years ago involving over 3,000 men and women showing that a diet rich in olive oil, fish, fruits, and vegetables decreased the risk of heart disease and inflammation. Olive oil is one of the best sources of monounsaturated fats, and has the advantage of being more stable when heated. Olive oil reduces the cytokines in the liver which lead to inflammation. It does this by removing undesirable fat from the liver, thereby lowering LDL cholesterol, whilst at the same time improving insulin levels and regulating blood sugar levels. You cannot however just add olive oil to a diet high in saturated and trans-fats and expect a miracle. You must replace the unhealthy fats with olive oil in combination with a Mediterranean-style diet.
- A reduced risk of Cancer: Olive oil consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer. A review of 19 observational studies, with over 36,000 participants, found that higher rates of olive oil consumption were associated with lower odds of having any type of cancer. Another review of 25 epidemiological studies concluded that “preferring olive oil to other added lipids, particularly those rich in saturated fats, can decrease the risk of upper digestive and respiratory tract neoplasms, breast and, possibly, colorectal and other cancer sites”.
- Lowered blood pressure: This same study has found that the consumption of olive oil is also associated with a decrease in blood pressure. In fact those with the highest olive oil consumption had a 44 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who did not consume olive oil.
- Powerful anti-oxidant action: Apart from the monounsaturated fats and oleic acid in olive oil there is another powerful component - polyphenols. These are phytochemicals that have powerful antioxidant activity, and appear to protect the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the body. Researchers have found that consumption of olive oil at doses of about 2 tablespoons per day meant a reduction of the oxidative damage to lipids. Oxidized LDL is an important contributor to atherogenesis, the process of plaque buildup in the arteries that leads to hardening of the arteries. It is important to note that only polyphenol rich extra virgin olive oils may have this effect, not refined olive oil.
- Improves cognitive function: specifically cognitive decline associated with aging. It appears that olive oil has a protective effect on cognitive function. The actual protective agent might be a substance called oleocanthal, which helps to protect nerve cells from the kind of damage that occurs in Alzheimer’s Dementia, thereby reducing the risk of AD or related neurodegenerative dementias.