June 10, 2018 0

Why Olive Oil Is Still The King Of Fats

Posted by:Dr. Brian Mowll onJune 10, 2018

At the mere mention of dietary fats, pleasant, civilized conversations can suddenly turn into heated arguments. And that’s to be expected with so much misunderstanding out there about fats.

But while a majority of people can’t agree on whether or not saturated animal fats raise cardiovascular risk (they don’t) or vegetable oils cause inflammation (they do), pretty much everyone agrees that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is beneficial for health.

“While most oils are refined, olive oil is one of the few oils we still consume mostly unprocessed.” – Mark Hyman, MD

EVOO is a traditional fat used for centuries by some of the healthiest populations on the planet (hello Mediterranean diet!), so it’s not surprising that studies have found EVOO to be so good for us. [1]

What Makes Olive Oil So Healthy?

A quick look at olive oil shows that it’s fairly nutritious, offering decent amounts of Vitamins E and K, along with a lot of beneficial fatty acids. But where olive oil really excels is in its antioxidant content.

Some of olive oil’s main antioxidants are oleocanthal, a potent anti-inflammatory, and oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation. [2] Some people have criticized olive oil for its high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, but with such a small amount of polyunsaturated fat, there is really no cause for concern.

“Olive oil has the highest percentage of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat of any edible oil. Quality olive oil also contains abundant antioxidants, substances that have been shown to provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer effects.” – Andrew Weil, M.D.

Let’s take a deeper dive and look at all of the wonderful health benefits olive oil offers us.

A Powerful Anti-Inflammatory

Spend an hour or two online researching health and you’ll come across a very lengthy list of diseases that you hope to avoid. What do all of these diseases have in common?

They all stem from chronic inflammation!

Some scientific evidence has shown that oleic acid, the main fatty acid in olive oil, can reduce inflammatory markers like C-Reactive Protein. [3] Another study has shown that substances in olive oil have the ability to reduce expression of genes and proteins that mediate inflammation. [4]

Adding olive oil to your diet may help you to reduce inflammation and the chances of developing disease.

It’s Great for Your Heart

According to the World Health Organization, heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in the world. Except in some very specific places in the world, namely around the Mediterranean Sea.

It was this observation that led health experts to promote the Mediterranean Diet in the first place, which has since been shown to help prevent heart disease. In fact, one study found the Mediterranean Diet, that includes healthy servings of olive oil, reduced incidences of heart attack, stroke and death by 30%. [5]

EVOO protects against heart disease in a few different ways:

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Protects the heart from LDL oxidation
  • Improves the function of the lining of the blood vessels
  • Prevents unwanted blood clotting
  • Lowers blood pressure [6]

The evidence is quite strong. If you or a loved one is at risk of developing heart disease, consider including plenty of olive oil into your diet.

A Cancer Fighter?

In addition to having low incidents of heart disease, people in Mediterranean countries also have a fairly low risk of cancer. As we know, a known contributor to cancer is oxidative damage due to free radicals. But with its high amount of powerful antioxidants, olive oil can help reduce oxidative damage in the body.

While no human controlled studies have been conducted to link the low cancer rates to the Mediterranean diet, there is certainly enough to suggest that olive oil and its antioxidants play some kind of role.

Protects Against Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease and a leading cause of dementia. One of the main features of the disease is a build up of protein tangles called beta amyloid plaques in specific neurons in the brain.

One study in mice showed that the Oleocanthal found in olive oil helps to clear the plaque tangles from the brain. [7] Another human study found the Mediterranean diet had a positive impact on overall brain function, reducing the risk of cognitive impairment. [8]

If you want your brain to age gracefully and keep on working for you, consider switching out your regular salad dressing for EVOO.

Not All Olive Oil is Created Equally

Olives are the fruits of the olive tree. After being harvested, they are pressed to expel the oil. Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, the one main problem with olive oil is that there are a lot of inferior products on the market. Some lower quality oils are extracted using chemicals and even diluted with other cheaper oils. This is NOT what you want for your health, so it’s important you by the right type of olive oil.

To be sure you are getting all of the benefits I just mentioned, it’s important that you only choose EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL. This type is extracted using natural methods and is standardized for purity.

If the bottle doesn’t say “extra virgin,” put it down. Even those that say “light” have often been extracted with solvents and diluted with cheaper oils like canola and soybean. Yikes!

But here’s where it gets really confusing – and super annoying: olive oil fraud is a thing. Because olive oil is so popular, many brands are getting into the market and labeling their product ‘extra virgin olive oil’ when it’s anything but.

There are some things you can do to ensure you’re buying the right kind of healthy oil:

  • Buy only those oils that have passed rigorous testing. But keep checking each year to see if your brand remains on the up-and-up.
  • Attend an olive oil tasting to see what real EVOO is supposed to look, smell and taste like. This will help you identify frauds.
  • Never buy olive oil in plastic containers. Real EVOO will be sold in dark glass bottles with a harvest date provided on the label. (forget “bottled” or “best buy” dates – those are useless in this scenario. EVOO should be consumed within 2 years of harvest)

While it may be a challenge at first to find a reputable source of quality EVOO, doing so will greatly benefit you and your family. Not only will the taste of the real stuff knock your socks off, but your heart, brain and entire body will thank you.

Resources:

[1] Journal Article

Multiple authors, “Mono-unsaturated fatty acids link H3K4me3 modifiers to C. elegans lifespan” Nature volume544, pages185–190 (13 April 2017) doi:10.1038/nature21686

[2] Journal Article

Multiple authors, “Phytochemistry: ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil” Nature. 2005 Sep 1;437(7055):45-6

[3] Journal Article

Multiple authors, “Dietary intake of fatty acids and serum C-reactive protein in Japanese” J Epidemiol. 2007 May;17(3):86-92

[4] Journal Article

Multiple authors, “In vivo nutrigenomic effects of virgin olive oil polyphenols within the frame of the Mediterranean diet: a randomized controlled trial” The FASEB Journal Vol. 24, No. 7 July 2010

[5] Journal Article

Multiple authors, “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet” N Engl J Med 2013; 368:1279-1290 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1200303

[6] Journal Article

Multiple authors, “Olive oil and reduced need for antihypertensive medications” Arch Intern Med. 2000 Mar 27;160(6):837-42

[7] Journal Article

Multiple authors, “Olive-Oil-Derived Oleocanthal Enhances β-Amyloid Clearance as a Potential Neuroprotective Mechanism against Alzheimer’s Disease: In Vitro and in Vivo Studies” ACS Chem. Neurosci., 2013, 4 (6), pp 973–982

[8] Journal Article

Multiple authors, “Virgin olive oil supplementation and long-term cognition: the PREDIMED-NAVARRA randomized, trial.” J Nutr Health Aging. 2013;17(6):544-52

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