The Mediterranean population has the lowest rate of cardiovascular disease and longest life expectancy. A diet that is up to 40% fat is what makes these people, as well as other Mediterranean residents, so happy.
However, most of this fat is monounsaturated Olive Oil, and the health boons of this polyphenol-rich oil continue to stack up. Let's look at three of the most well-known benefits of Olive Oil.
Olive oil may be able to reverse Alzheimer's disease
Studies have shown that people who eat a Mediterranean diet, which includes Olive Oil and other healthy food, are less likely to develop dementia.
A recent study also found that laboratory mice with Alzheimer's disease generally ate routine chow rich in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This helped them perform better in memory and learning tests.
Their brains were also significantly less likely to develop beta amyloid plaques or neurofibrillary knots, which are indicators of Alzheimer's disease.
Olive oil can help lower blood pressure
In a study conducted in Italy, a diet rich in extra-virgin olive oillowered blood pressure dramatically in patients with mild to moderate hypertension - and in some cases reduced the need for medication.
Participants with moderately high blood pressure (less that 165/104mm Hg) who were taking antihypertensive medication were also included in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to either extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil. Six months later, participants were switched to the other diet.
The Olive Oildiet assisted in reducing blood pressure to a much larger extent than the sunflower oil diet, allowing patients to cut their drug requirements by an average of 48 percent.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is also a concentrated source of polyphenols, potent antioxidants that protect LDL cholesterol from free radical damage and help keep the inner lining of the arteries healthy and free from plaque buildup, which also has positive effects on blood pressure.
Olive oil helps to reduce stroke risk
Researchers did a study to see if high consumption of olive oil (as both cooking oil and as a dressing for salads) is associated with a lower risk of strokes.
After following participants who had no history of stroke for five years, the researchers later discovered that those who used the most Olive Oil had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke than those who never consumed it.
A second assessment showed that those with high blood levels of oleic acids (a type of fat found in olive oil) experienced a 73% reduction in their risk of developing heart disease, compared to those who had the lowest levels.
This is a very sensible decision. As noted above, Olive Oil increases levels of nitric oxide, which helps keep blood pressure in check, and high blood pressure is one of the most significant risk factors for stroke.
Additionally, olive polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants, prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidation and stop atherosclerosis (another risk factor for stroke),
Research suggests that Olive Oil may also help prevent platelets from sticking together in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of a stroke-causing blood clot.
How to Get the Most Out Of Olive Oil's Essential Benefits
Extra-virgin olive oils are best to ensure that you get all the health benefits. It should be kept in a cool dark place or in the fridge to keep it fresh.
Olive oil can be used as a primary oil in cooking, marinades and salad dressings. It is fine to heat it. Monounsaturated fats tend to be stable. When sautéing, keep the heat at a low temperature.
Generally, a good rule of thumb for salad dressings and marinades is three parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil to one to two parts citrus juice or vinegar of your choice, plus fresh or dried herbs and seasonings.
Three tablespoons olive oil, two teaspoons red wine vinegar, one clove minced garlic, salt and pepper make a delicious vinaigrette.
Are Olive Oil Benefits Brand-Specific?
Our Olive Oil experts recommend that you ensure the quality of what you purchase. According to a Journal of Food Science study, olive oil is the most susceptible to food fraud.
These issues include mislabeled countries, missing ingredients on labels, additions of cheaper seed, nut and vegetable oils, and questionable purity.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or real extra virgin olive oil) is only the oil extracted from mechanically pressed olive seed. It cannot be heated or processed with chemicals. For freshness, check the label for the date of harvest to ensure that it is still in its original state. Olive oil should not be more than one year old in a perfect world.
Olive oil can be stored in good conditions for up to 2 years. It is possible to legitimately use a brand that has the International Olive Oil Council's (IOOC), or California Olive Oil Council's (COOC) stamp of approval.
Visit a store that sells olive oils if you are able to. You can also taste the oil in-store.
Also, avoid olive oil that has been stored in dark bottles. This helps to preserve the oil's freshness and prevents oxidation.