Olive Oil and Health


When choosing fats, olive oil is a healthy choice. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, a healthier type of fat that can lower the risk of heart disease by reducing the total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels in blood. In contrast, saturated and trans fats — such as butter, animal fats, tropical oils and partially hydrogenated oils — increase the risk of heart disease by increasing total and LDL cholesterol levels. According to USAs Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consuming about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil a day may reduce the risk of heart disease. You can get the most benefit by substituting olive oil for saturated fats rather than just adding more olive oil to your diet. All types of olive oil contain monounsaturated fat, but “extra-virgin” olive oils are the least processed forms, so they’re the most heart healthy.

The eating habits of people in developed countries have gradually changed over the past few years. In these days, eating customs are characterized by an excess of calories, deficiency in vitamins, minerals and fibre, as well as by a nutritional imbalance, resulting in an increase in chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes. The solution would be to adopt a healthy diet like the Mediterranean, which is nutritious and pleasant.

In recent years, medical researchers have focused their attention on the virtues of the Mediterranean diet and especially on olive oil. On closer examination, this ancient liquid has proved to be more than a source of monounsaturated fat. It is also a rich source of antioxidants (substances that currently undoubtedly attract the attention of scientists).

Antioxidants play an important role in the arteries. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol, are actually harmful only when they oxidize. If this happens, particles form that create a plaque that accumulates and incredibly increase the chances of blocking an artery. Antioxidants help prevent this oxidation from happening.

Vegetables also provide important antioxidants, and thanks to olive oil, the people from the Mediterranean countries have included in their diet a great number of these.

But the virtues of olive oil go beyond the protection against cardiovascular diseases. Some of the antioxidants called “polyphenols” in olive oil could destroy the substances that lead to cancer cell proliferation. In fact, some studies indicate that women in Mediterranean countries suffer less breast cancer than in countries like the United States and Australia, where the percentage is very high.

Olive oil also plays an important role in diabetes. Research has shown that people who enjoy olive oil in their diet, have a better control over their diabetes and lower levels of some fats in the blood, when compared with the diet rich in carbohydrates normally recommended for this type of diabetes.

Olive oil has a definite protective effect on metabolism, arteries, stomach and bile. It promotes growth during childhood and extends life expectancy in the elderly. It has a unique effect on blood serum lipids. Furthermore, olive oil seems to have a colagogic effect (expulsion of the bile) and a therapeutic effect on peptic ulcers.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in complex carbohydrates (whole wheat bread, legumes and wheat derivatives), fresh fruits and vegetables, fish (with high omega-3 fatty acids), low in consumption of dairy products and high in consumption of olive oil. Indeed, the nutritional effect of olive oil is reflected in the health of its consumers in the Mediterranean Basin, which have a low rate of heart diseases and high life expectancy. Unfortunately, these beneficial effects are disappearing due to the replacement of that kind of diet by the “western” one.


Olive Oil and Mediterranean Diet

   This is the concept promoted by studies undertaken around the 1970’s by the American scientist Ancel Keys, whose results were summarized in the “Mediterranean diet”.

   To summarize, it was sensed and then demonstrated by a study conducted for 20 years in Finland, Japan, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the United States and Yugoslavia, that the diet of populations who live on the Mediterranean gives rise to one of the highest life expectancies in the world with drastic reductions in incidences of heart disease and a few types of cancers as well as many other diseases that are all related to diet.

   A healthy diet foresees, above all, moderate food consumption, and secondly, careful attention to the chemical composition of food.The dietary model designated by Ancel Keys which later became known as the “Mediterranean diet”, bases its reasoning on a few nutrients and among which, as far as the type of lipid to consume, Extra Virgin olive oil has a fundamental role for its concentration of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

   Mediterranean diet’s virtues have been repeatedly praised by all expert nutritionists. Olive oil constitutes the very essence of healthy mediterranean diets.

Olive oil esti… for health and the good life!

   Olive oil is an integral part of the “Mediterranean diet” which is associated with sensible tasty portions and slower, more enjoyable eating. People who have a “Mediterranean diet” have been shown to have a remarkable variety of health benefits. The olive oil in the Mediterranean diet can quickly satisfy hunger and lead to fewer total calories ingested at mealtime. It is unclear if any single component of this diet is responsible for these health benefits or if it is a combination of olive oil and a diet high in vegetables, fruit and fish.

   Extra virgin olive oil is one of the few oils that can be eaten without chemical processing. (Nearly every other vegetable oil has been detoxified and refined with steam and solvents). Fresh pressed olive oil can be eaten immediately and retains the natural flavors, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other healthy products of the ripe olive fruit.

   Most doctors advocate lowering total fat and calories in your diet, and substituting butter, margarine and tropical oils with healthy fats like olive oil.

   Τhe studies regarding the associations between certain eating patterns and the risk of diseases is interesting due to the existence of synergetic and contrary effects in food.  These patterns faithfully reflect the population’s general consumption and are very useful epidemiological information.


   The term Mediterranean Diet reflects the characteristic dietary patterns of several Mediterranean countries in the nineteen sixties. The association between the Mediterranean diet and a longer life expectancy and lower morbimortality due to heart diseases has also been seen in certain tumours and other illnesses related with our diet, this food pattern being the common link between countries. 

   Clinical, epidemiological and biochemical studies have provided very sound biological bases regarding the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.  The high intake of antioxidants derived from the consumption of fruit and vegetables together with the benefits obtained from extra virgin olive oil and the moderate consumption of wine, make the Mediterranean Diet have multiple advantages besides from its relatively high contents in fat. .

   It is has been proven that the Mediterranean Diet has beneficial effects with regard to:

1. Increase of life expectancy: the traditional Mediterranean Diet is associated to a longer life expectancy both for the population in general and for people with an ischemic heart disease.

2. Decrease of mortality: the consumption of a Mediterranean Diet is associated to an overall  lower risk of mortality and a similar decrease in mortality of coronary, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, in a healthy population older than 70.

3. Ischemic heart disease, cardiovascular illness: the consumption of a Mediterranean type diet, rich in linolenic acid reduces 50% to 70% of cardiovascular risk, depending on the valuation criteria analysed. It reduces the relative risk of suffering a heart attack, maintaining its protective effect up to 4 years after having suffered the first myocardial attack without altering the independent recurrence predictor power of the traditional risk factors such as hyperoscherolemia and hypertension. People with a relatively high intake of Mediterranean Diet food have less premature mortality after a first myocardial attack. The Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of coronary diseases between 8% and 45%. 

4. Metabolic syndrome and blood pressure: the Mediterranean Diet could reduce the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and its associated vascular risk, possibly due to the decrease of the inflammation it has associated. It could reduce the concentration of proost-inflammatory and pro-coagulant markers in people without cardiovascular history.  To adhere to a Mediterranean diet is inversely related to blood pressure. 

5. Overweight or obesity: in different transversal studies with more than 3,000 adult participants without a cardiovascular disease history, it was proven that the adherence to a Mediterranean Diet was associated with a 39 to 50% reduction of the probability of becoming overweight or obese and with 59% less risk of developing overall obesity after controlling several confusing variables.

6. Cancer: those people ill with coronary artery disease that follow a Mediterranean Diet may be protected against developing certain tumours, especially urinary, digestive and thr