Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The health benefits of olive oil are extensive with new positive attributes discovered all the time.  One prominent cardiologist recommends at least two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day.  At present it is believed that in addition to bolstering the immune system and helping to protect against viruses, olive oil is also effective in fighting against diseases such as:

  • Hypertension: A diet high in unsaturated fatty acids reduces blood pressure as  compared to a diet rich in saturated fat. Among unsaturated fats it  appears that both monounsaturated fatty acids (like those contained in  olive oil) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fish and other vegetable oils) lower blood pressure. An Italian research study done in patients with known hypertension has shown that consumptions of 40 gm of olive oil a day reduces blood pressure by about 50% (almost half of the  patients were able to reduce the dose or stop taking altogether their blood pressure medications). The beneficial effect of olive oil  (especially the extra virgin olive oil) is attributed mainly to its polyphenols.

  • Cardiovascular Disease:  High  LDL cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis and atherothrombosis,  depositing cholesterol in the artery wall and clogging the arteries of  vital organs (like the heart, brain, and kidneys). HDL cholesterol is  the “good” cholesterol and acts as a scavenger, removing cholesterol  from plaques in the artery wall. Reducing LDL cholesterol and raising  HDL cholesterol has significant health benefits and protects against  heart attacks, strokes, and sudden death. Consumption of about two tablespoons of olive oil reduced LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and mildly raised HDL (the “good” cholesterol).

  • Cancer: Studies suggest that olive oil exerts a protective effect against certain malignant tumors (breast, prostate, endometrium, digestive tract…). A number of research studies have documented that olive oil reduces the risk of breast cancer.  Eating a healthy diet with olive oil as the main source of fat could considerably lower cancer incidence.

  • Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome : Olive oil reduces the metabolic complications of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. With its polyphenols  and squalene components it reduces the high level of inflammatory  activity present in both diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Thus, olive  oil helps reduce LDL-the “bad”-cholesterol, lipid oxidation and high  blood pressure. A diet rich in olive oil also facilitates glycemic control by leaving “less room” for carbohydrates (particularly “simple  sugars” that cause insulin spikes and premature hunger attacks).

  • Obesity: Although high in calories, olive oil has shown to help reduce levels of obesity.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Although the reasons are still not fully clear, recent studies have proved that people with diets containing high levels of olive oil are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Osteoporosis: A high consumption of olive oil appears to improve bone mineralization and calcification. It helps calcium absorption and so plays an important role in aiding sufferers and in preventing the onset of Osteoporosis.

  • Alzheimer’s Disease: Inflammation  and free radicals damage brain cells and impair synaptic function,  contributing to the neurodegenaration and brain cell loss that  characterizes Alzheimer’s disease. The squalene content of olive oils  (along with its other antioxidants) has neuroprotective effects and does  not allow oxidation of its monounsaturated fatty acids (which  unfortunately occurs with polyunsaturated fats that may, thus,  contribute to nerve damage). Oleocanthal, another olive oil component  has been shown in scientific research to slow down the progression of  Alzheimer’s.
  • Aging and Longevity: Free  radicals attack and damage cells and its constituents, especially DNA  found not only in the cell nucleus but also in the mitochondria.  It is  hypothesized that olive oil with its antioxidant effects inhibit  peroxidation and reduces mitochondrial DNA damage, preserving vitality  and youthfulness. It appears that the oleocanthal component of olive oil  significantly contributes to olive oil’s anti-aging effects. There is a  report of a 120-year-old Israeli woman who used to drink a glass of  olive oil every day!