Olive oil is one of the most healthy forms of dietary fats. There are several types of olive oils that are present in the market. Ranging from Extra Virgin Olive oils to mixed products of several vegetable oils for cooking, salad dressing etc. A key question is,
“What makes the olive oils so nutritionally beneficial and considered as the miracle oil?”
Scientifically, the major components of the olive oil are fatty acids. There are different type of fatty acids in olive oils, of which the MUFA oleic acid represents from 55 to 83 % of the total fatty acids, PUFA from 4 to 20 % and SFA from 8 to 14 %.
The minor components of olive oil constitute from 1 to 2 % of the total content of an olive oil. They are classified into two types:
(1) the unsaponifiable fraction that could be extracted with solvents after the saponification of the oil and contains squalene and other triterpenes, sterols, tocopherols, and pigments;
(2) the soluble fraction that includes the phenolic compounds, which are the most studied and best-known components in terms of their benefits for health.
The benefits of olive oils are summarised below. The findings are based on verified clinical studies and experimental studies on animals.
Cardioprotective effects of Olive Oils
Regular consumption of olive oils is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
This cardioprotective effect is verified in The PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) study published in BMC medical journal (2014). The study showed that Olive oil consumption in Mediterranean populations, specifically the extra-virgin variety, is associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular disease. The study also found that olive oil consumption was associated with a 48% reduced risk of death from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. For each 10 g/d increase in extra-virgin olive oil consumption, cardiovascular disease and mortality risk decreased by 10% and 7%, respectively.
Hence, if you have significant family history and risk factors for heart disease, olive oils are the best option compared to other vegetables or animal-derived oils for regular consumption in order to reduce your risks of cardiovascular disease.
The benefits of olive oils are not limited to the heart. A large body of evidence demonstrated the benefits of Olive oil. The scientifically proven benefits of olive oils consumption are published in The British Journal of Nutrition (2014);
- Improve lipid profile – Olive oils are the healthier choice of fats because it contains a high level of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and shown to increase HDL level.
- Improve insulin sensitivity (the ability of the cells to transport glucose from the bloodstream into the cells) – Hence, reducing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Rich in antioxidants – Olive oil is full of antioxidants such as vitamin E, carotenoids and oleuropein.
- Reduce inflammation – reduce the risk of developing autoimmune disease
- Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (ie stroke and heart attacks) by maintaining normal endothelial (blood vessel lining) function, thrombotic factors (prevent blood clots) and reduction of blood pressure.
Because of the high quality of evidence, Federal Drug Administration of the USA permitted a claim on olive oil labels concerning: ‘the benefits on the risk of CHD of eating about two tablespoons (23 g) of olive oil daily, due to the monounsaturated fat (MUFA) in olive oil’.
Olive Oils are Natural Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory
Virgin Olive Oils (VOO) with high phenolic content has been shown to be effective in reducing the eicosanoid inflammatory mediators derived from arachidonic acid (pro-inflammatory precursor). A research published in Nature (2004), found that newly pressed extra-virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal. Oleocanthal (oleo for olive, canth for sting, and al for aldehyde) – a compound whose pungency induces a strong stinging sensation in the throat, not unlike that caused by solutions of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen.
A point of interest is that the spatial irritation produced by oleocanthal is specific to the throat region. Generally, irritant or pungent foods are perceived in all regions in the mouth, rather than isolated to a spatially distinct area. This implies that a sensory receptor specific to oleocanthal exists exclusively in the oropharyngeal region but not in the mouth.
Oleocanthal is a natural anti-inflammatory compound that has a potency and profile strikingly similar to that of ibuprofen. Although they have different chemical structure, they both inhibit the same COX enzymes in the prostaglandin-biosynthesis pathway. Subsequent to its discovery and identification, oleocanthal has been reported to exhibit various modes of action in reducing inflammatory-related disease, including joint-degenerative disease, neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimer’s) and cancers. This could explain the reason why the prevalence of chronic inflammatory disease in Mediterranean populations are the lowest in the world, and life expectancy amongst the highest!
Olive oils for healthy skin
Olive oil is an excellent moisturizer. Linoleic acids in the oils prevent water from evaporating. So if you put olive oil on your skin, it locks in the moisture and all of the other vitamins and minerals olive oil contains.
Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of extra-virgin olive oil can help with this common skin problem such as acne and dermatitis. Application of Olive oils on the skin with dermatitis help to prevent colonization and infection caused by Staph aureus (Dermatitis, 2008).
Olive oil is a natural sunscreen. It can be used to protect the skin from damaging ultraviolet ray. Plus, the presence of fats and cholesterol in the oils helps the skin to synthesize vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. It also can be used to treat sunburns.
Olive oils for healthy hairs
Olive oils not only have antibacterial action but it also able to kill yeast and fungus. Antifungal properties in extra-virgin olive oil can help with a dandruff problem. It also can be used to treat damaged hair.
Apply oil to the scalp and cover with a shower cap or plastic carrier bag. Relax for an hour then shampoo hair. Repeat twice a week.
Olive oils for healthier Gut
Olive oil stimulates the production of bile in the liver and its expulsion from the gallbladder into the intestine. Hence, it will help the gut to digest the fatty foods better. Consume one to two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil with each fatty meal.
Extra virgin olive oil to be effective against H. pylori. H. pylori are harmful that can cause gastritis, peptic ulcer disease and some case, stomach cancer. In the study published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2007), olive oils exhibit a strong bactericidal activity against eight strains of H. pylori, three of them resistant to some antibiotics! Among the phenolic compounds, the dialdehydic form of decarboxymethyl ligstroside aglycon showed the strongest bactericidal effect at a concentration as low as 1.3 microg/mL.
A Spanish study by Castro et. al (2012) showed that 30 grams of extra virgin olive oil can eliminate Helicobacter pylori infection in 10-40% of people in as little as 4 weeks.
In conclusion, they are plenty of benefits of olive oils and the latest research and clinical trials support the use of olive oils for its medicinal use. I personally take 1 spoon of olive oils in the morning. If I forget to take it in the morning, I usually use the oils on my salads or take 1 spoon with my dinners. 1 tablespoon of Olive oils a day keeps the disease away!