The Science of Olive Oil

“Olive” The Health Benefits

Olive oil’s health benefits are storied and time-tested

Olive oil is a monounsaturated cooking oil, included in food from the Mediterranean and Italy. As an unsaturated fat, is vastly healthier than animal-based saturated fats, like butter, or lard. As a monounsaturated fat, it is also significantly better for you than margarine, which is a saturated fat produced from plant products.

The Cardiovascular Benefits of Olive Oil

Olive oil, specifically extra virgin olive oil, has been shown to limit inflammation in the body through its phenols and polyphenols. These chemicals in olive oil are both “cardioprotective” (protecting the heart), and “anti-inflammatory” (preventing inflammation throughout the body.

Studies have shown that anywhere between one and four tablespoons of olive oil daily can bring these cardioprotective and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Olive Oil and Diabetes

Olive oil has been shown to help prevent Type 2 diabetes, by reducing blood sugar and cholesterol more than other fats. Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body’s insensitivity to blood sugar, as a product of high-sugar diets over long periods of time.

Olive Oil for the Mind?

A study from Temple University showed that olive oil was a significant factor in preventing cognitive decline. With respect to Alzheimer’s, olive oil was shown to protect memory and cognitive ability and prevent the formation of neurofibrillary tangles and beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. Both neurofibrillary tangles and beta-amyloid plaques are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mediterranean Diet and Lifespan

Olive oil has a number of benefits to each part of the body, but is most remarkable for its overall ability to increase lifespan. There has been a great amount of research into the “Mediterranean diet” and its ability to cause long lifespans. Remarkably, people who consume Italian and Greek diets – which heavily utilize olive oil – tend to live longer and show greater health at later ages.

Research shows that the Mediterranean diet led to better aging markers, such as longer telomeres in DNA. Telomeres are shortened as cells continue to live and divide, which can lead to senescence and aging. For this reason, it is believed that olive oil is the cause for longer telomeres – a good marker for reduced aging. In addition, research on a number of compounds in olive oil – like oleacein and oleuropein – have shown the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of olive oil.

While we may simply be tasting the fresh taste of extra virgin olive oil, our cells are receiving compounds that are helping to extend our lives.