As many readers already know, extra virgin olive oil is incredibly healthy. Used in countless remedies by Italians for generations, science has finally recognized what your Nonna knew since childhood. Not only is olive oil helpful to hair follicles and for rejuvenating skin, due to its powerful antioxidants, it benefits the heart, brain, joints and much, much more. In fact, it is quite likely to be the healthiest fat on the planet. Although the health effects of dietary fat are controversial among experts, the one thing that all agree on is that olive oil – especially extra virgin, is very good for you. Here are the health benefits of olive oil that are supported by scientific research.
Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. Olive oil is the natural oil extracted from olives, the fruit of the olive tree. The predominant fatty acid in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, making up 73% of the total oil content. Studies show that oleic acid reduces inflammation and research continues about the beneficial effects of the oil on genes linked to cancer. Since monounsaturated fats do not break down with heat, extra virgin olive oil a very healthy choice for cooking.
Extra virgin olive oil contains modest amounts of vitamins E and K, but it is loaded with powerful antioxidants which are biologically active and help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. They also fight inflammation and help protect blood cholesterol from oxidation, two benefits that can lower the risk of heart disease.
Olive oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation is a complication in many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and arthritis. Extra-virgin olive oil can reduce inflammation, a major benefit to using it in food preparation and in cooking. The reason for this is the oleocanthal in oil. It works similarly to that of ibuprofen.
Extra virgin olive oil can also help to prevent strokes. A stroke is caused by a disturbance of blood flow to the brain, either due to a blood clot or bleeding. In the United States, strokes are the second most common cause of death after heart disease. The relationship between olive oil and stroke risk has been studied extensively. An extensive study of over 840,000 people found that olive oil was the only source of monounsaturated fat that reduced the risk of both strokes and heart disease. A separate study found that those who consumed olive oil were at a much lower risk of stroke than those who did not.
Since heart disease is less common in Mediterranean countries, this led to extensive research into the Mediterranean diet, which has now been shown to significantly reduce heart disease risk. Extra virgin olive oil is one of the key ingredients in the diet and has been shown to protect against heart disease in several ways. It lowers inflammation, protects bad LDL cholesterol from oxidation, improves the lining of blood vessels and helps to prevent excessive blood clotting.
Additionally, olive oil has also been shown to lower blood pressure, which is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease and premature death. In one study, olive oil reduced the need for blood pressure medication by an astounding 48%. For those who have heart disease, a family history of heart disease or any other major risk factors, adding plenty of extra virgin olive oil in your diet has sound medical benefits.
Olive oil may also fight Alzheimer’s disease, the most common neurodegenerative condition in the world. One of the key features of the disease is a buildup of beta-amyloid plaque in brain cells. Early studies have shown that olive oil can help remove these plaques.
It also may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Several studies have linked olive oil to beneficial effects on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. A clinical trial of 418 healthy people recently confirmed the protective effects of olive oil. In this study, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil reduced the risk of Type 2 diabetes by over 40%.
The antioxidants in olive oil also contain anti-cancer properties. People in Mediterranean countries have a lower risk of numerous cancers and many researchers believe that olive oil may be the reason. The antioxidants in olive oil can reduce oxidative damage due to free radicals, which is believed to be a leading driver of cancer. Research is continuing in this area.
Another benefit of olive oil is associated with rheumatoid arthritis. This autoimmune disease is characterized by deformed and painful joints. The exact cause is not well understood, but it involves the body’s immune system attacking normal cells by mistake. Olive oil supplements appear to improve inflammatory markers and reduce oxidative stress in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. It seems particularly beneficial when combined with fish oil, a source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. In one study, olive and fish oil significantly improved handgrip strength, while reducing joint pain and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Finally, olive oil contains antibacterial properties. It has many nutrients that can inhibit or kill harmful bacteria. One of these is Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that lives in the stomach and can cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancer. Studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil fights eight strains of this bacterium, three of which are resistant to antibiotics. In fact, a recent study showed that taking one ounce of extra virgin olive oil daily can eliminate helicobacter pylori infection in as much as 40% of people in as little as two weeks.
Buying the right kind of olive oil is extremely important. So make sure that you buy olive oil from a trusted source, such as Colavita. Delicious and with exceptional health benefits, there is truly nothing like olive oil.