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Extra virgin olive oil and alzheimer's disease
Oleocanthal is a type of natural phenolic compound found in extra-virgin olive oil. In laboratory experiments with mice, researchers discovered that oleocanthal helps shuttle the abnormal Alzheimer's disease proteins out of the brain.
As background information, the researchers explained that Alzheimer's disease rates are lower in Mediterranean countries, where consumption of olive oil is higher than anywhere else in the world.
Amal Kaddoumi and team set out to determine whether oleocanthal might help reduce the accumulation of beta-amyloid, believed to be the culprit of Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Their study was published in the journal Chemical Neuroscience.
The team tracked the effects of oleocanthal in the cultured brain cells and brains of laboratory mice.
They found that in both cultured brain cells and the mice's brains themselves oleocanthal consistently boosted the production of two proteins and key enzymes known to be vital in the removal of beta-amyloid from the brain.
The study authors concluded "Extra-virgin olive oil-derived oleocanthal associated with the consumption of Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of AD or related neurodegenerative dementias."
Extra virgin olive oil and acute pancreatitis
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in oleic acid and hydroxytyrosol, which affect the development of acute pancreatitis (sudden inflammation of the pancreas).
Researchers at the University of Granada in Spain carried out an in vitro experiment which found that the components of extra virgin olive oil can protect from acute pancreatitis.
Head researcher, María Belén López Millán said that "there is increasing evidence that there are oxidative-inflammatory processes involved in the origin of chronic diseases and that diet plays an important role in such processes."
Olive oil and the liver
Investigators at the University of Monastir, Tunisia, and King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, carried out a study demonstrating that extra virgin olive oil may protect the liver from oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress refers to cell damage associated with the chemical reaction between free radicals and other molecules in the body. Put simply, oxidative stress means cell damage.
In this study, which was published in BioMed Central, Mohamed Hammami and colleagues reported that laboratory rats exposed to a moderately toxic herbicide that were fed on a diet containing olive oil were partially protected from liver damage.
Hammami said "Olive oil is an integral ingredient in the Mediterranean diet. There is growing evidence that it may have great health benefits including the reduction in coronary heart disease risk, the prevention of some cancers and the modification of immune and inflammatory responses. Here, we've shown that extra virgin olive oil and its extracts protect against oxidative damage of hepatic tissue".
Olive oil may help protect from ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis, a fairly common long-term (chronic) disorder, is a disease that causes inflammation of the large intestine (colon). It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that is similar to Crohn's disease, a related disorder.
Scientists at the University of East Anglia in England say that consuming more olive oil could help fend off ulcerative colitis.
Dr Andrew Hart and team gathered and analyzed data on more than 25,000 people living in Norfolk, England. They were aged between 40 and 65 years. The volunteers were part of the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Diet and Cancer), spanning from 1993 to 1997. None of them had ulcerative colitis at the start of the study.
The participants regularly completed questionnaires and kept detailed food diaries, which included information on their overall health and consumption of fats.
In a 2004 follow up, the researchers compared the diets of those who had developed ulcerative colitis with those who had not.
They discovered that the participants with the highest intake of oleic acid - a component of olive oil - had a 90% lower risk of developing ulcerative colitis compared to those with the lowest intake.
Dr. Hart said "Oleic acid seems to help prevent the development of ulcerative colitis by blocking chemicals in the bowel that aggravate the inflammation found in this illness. We estimate that around half of the cases of ulcerative colitis could be prevented if larger amounts of oleic acid were consumed. Two-to-three tablespoons of olive oil per day would have a protective effect."
Researchers in Spain have suggested that following a Mediterranean diet supplemented with additional portions of antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts could protect cognitive functioning in older adults.
The nutritional value of 100g (3.5oz) of olive oil
- Energy - 3,701 kJ (885 kcal)
- Carbohydrates - 0 g
- Fat - 100 g.
- saturated 14 g
- monounsaturated 73 g
- polyunsaturated 11 g
- omega-3 fat - omega-6 fat 3.5-21 g
- Protein - 0 g
- Vitamin E - 14 mg (93% of recommended daily intake for adults)
- Vitamin K - 62 μg (59% of recommended daily intake for adults).
Olive oil and the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Olive oil is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not a member of the International Olive Council, so their retail grades have no legal meaning in the U.S. Terms such as "extra virgin" may be used without legal limitations.
However, as of October 2010, The U.S. Standards for Grades of Olive Oil and Olive-Pomace Oil4 went into effect. The USDA's grading of olive oil is based on flavor, odor, absence of defects and acidity:
- U.S. Extra Virgin Olive Oil - has an excellent flavor and odor, and a free fatty acid content of ≤ 0.8g per 100g (0.8%).
- U.S. Virgin Olive Oil - has a reasonably good flavor and odor, and a free fatty acid content of ≤ 2g per 100g (2%).
- U.S. Virgin Olive Oil Not Fit For Human Consumption Without Further Processing - this is a virgin oil of poor flavor and odor.
- U.S. Olive Oil - this is an oil mix of both virgin and refined oils.
- U.S. Refined Olive Oil - this is an oil made from refined oils with some restrictions on the processing.
These grades are voluntary.
In many countries, including the USA, "light" or "extra light" olive oils are processed with heat and chemicals to take out impurities. The color and flavor is lighter, compared to virgin olive oils. Light olive oil is sometimes blended with other oils.
Health benefits of olive oil - video
Mary Snell, a registered dietician, talks about the health benefits of olive oil and which ones to use for cooking, salads and dipping.
Have you enjoyed reading about the potential health benefits of olive oil? Take a look at our collection of articles about other foods.
Alternatively, read our article about the top 10 healthy foods for your daily diet.