Olive Oil Consumption and Human Health

Aromatic olive oil with herbs

Aromatic olive oil with herbs

OLIVE OIL AND HUMAN DISEASES Olive oil and cardiovascular disease: Chholesterol and artherosclerosis The beginnings of the current interest in the Mediterranean diet, characterised by a low content of saturated fatty acids (animal fats and palm and coconut oil) and by monounsaturated-rich olive oil as its main source of fat, can be traced back to Ancel Keys, of the University of Minnesota. In 1952, Keys was struck by the low incidence of coronary heart disease in Naples (Keys et al, 1954), which led him to believe there was a link between dietary fat consumption, elevated cholesterol levels and the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. The first studies conducted in the 1950s and 1960s measured total cholesterol levels as opposed to the levels of cholesterol transported by low-density (LDL) and high-density (HDL) lipoproteins. This led to the conclusion that the replacement of saturated fatty acids by monounsaturates did not affect serum cholesterol levels and that the substitution of polyunsaturates for saturated fatty acids lowered cholesterol levels (Keys, Grande Covian and Anderson, 1965). However, later advances in the determination of blood lipid profile prompted re-assessment of these results. This observation culminated in the body of research known as the Seven Countries Study (Keys, 1970), which provided major epidemiological evidence of the effects of fats and fatty acids on serum cholesterol levels. On comparing the diet of population groups in countries such as Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States, this was the first international prospective study of its kind and a scientific cornerstone on the health advantages of the Mediterranean diet. It was the first reference of the beneficial effects of olive oil and demonstrated that the incidence of cardiovascular disease amongst middle-aged men on Crete was lower than expected and directly proportional to their total cholesterol levels. Primarily owing to their high consumption of olive oil, their traditional diet supplied them with a high content of total fat (40% of total daily energy) but a low content of saturated fatty acids. This low incidence of vascular disease was linked to the potentially beneficial effects of monounsaturated-rich diets on lipoprotein profile, which led to the belief that the kind of fat is what matters, not the quantity. Subsequent studies comparing different population groups have provided further confirmation of the benefits of the olive-oil-rich Mediterranean diet (Kouris-Blazos et al., 1999; Kafatos et al., 1999). In 1985, Mattson and Grundy, of the University of Dallas, reported that olive oil lowered serum cholesterol without lowering HDL-cholesterol, which plays a protective, anti-atherogenic role by encouraging the elimination of LDL-cholesterol (Gordon et al, 1977). In 1986, Sirtori et al. demonstrated that besides its effect on cholesterol and atherosclerosis, olive oil also has a preventive effect on thrombosis and platelet aggregation. High intakes of olive oil are not harmful; they lower serum LDL-cholesterol levels but do not lower HDL levels, which they may even raise (Carmena et al., 1997; Sola, 1993; Mata et al., 1992b; Jacotot et al., 1998; 1991; 1982; Palaoglu et al., 1997; Mensink and Katan, 1989; Carmena et al., 1989; Grundy et al., 1982, 1986, 1988; Mattson and Grundy, 1985; Stammler, 1979; Keys, 1970).

Lemon oil dressing

Lemon oil dressing

Olive oil and antioxidant properties Numerous teams of researchers in Europe, Australia and North America have further documented these results. At the same time, they have discovered additional advantages of olive oil (antioxidants and their protective effect against free radicals), stemming from the minor components present in its unsaponifiable fraction (vitamins and antioxidants) (Vazquez Roncero et al., 1973; Montedoro et al., 1974; 1992a and b; 1993; Sato et al., 1990; Papadopoulos and Boskou, 1991; Chimi et al., 1988; 1991; Perrin et al., 1992; Reaven et al., 1993; Galli and Visioli, 1994; 1995; 1996; 1998; Livrea et al., 1995; Servili et al., 1996; Angerosa and Giovacchino, 1996; Baldioli et al., 1996; Litridou et al., 1997; Ryan et al., 1998; Saija et al., 1998; Mataix et al., 1999; Galletti et al., 1996; 1999; Ruiz Gutierrez et al., 1999). The polyphenols in virgin olive oil may function in vivo as protective antioxidants by exerting a protective effect against LDL oxidation; it is well known that oxidised LDLs are atherogenic whereas normal ones are not (Katan et al., 1999; Cortesi and Fedeli, 1995; 1998; Cortesi et al., 1997; Berra et al., 1995; Jacotot et al., 1998; Wiseman et al., 1996; Jimenez de Blas and del Valle Gonzalez, 1996a y b; Esterbauer et al., 1990; 1991). Other oils have a high monounsaturate content but they contain smaller quantities of these polyphenols (Colquhoun et al., 1996). There are oils that are rich in oleic acid, but they all necessarily have to be refined before being eaten. As a result, they do not taste as pleasant as olive oil and are used less often for dressings. Olive oil is the only oil that can be eaten as soon as it is extracted (virgin oil) without refining or industrial processing, which enables it to retain innumerable substances, antioxidants and vitamins that add to its nutritional value. In 1992 Gey et al. reported that olive oil supplied 3-5 times more vitamin E than other vegetable oils. The important protective role of vitamin E was demonstrated in the MONICA project, which reported vitamin E deficiency as a greater cardiovascular risk than blood cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Olive oil and frying The monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil make it more resistant to heat. Consequently, olive oil can be re-used for frying without undergoing hydrogenation or isomerisation processes that cancel out its beneficial effects on lipid metabolism. It is the lightest and tastiest fat for frying (Varela et al., 1980; 1984; 1986; 1988; 1996).

Olive oil and blood preassure In 1985, Mancini et al. studied blood pressure and observed that it was significantly lower when olive oil was consumed regularly, thus confirming the data reported by Aravanis et al. in Greece in 1980. Williams et al. reached the same conclusion in 1987. Recent research (Ferrara et al, 2000) reports that the use of olive oil lowers daily anti-hypertensive dosage requirements, possibly through enhanced nitric oxide levels stimulated by polyphenols.

Olive oil and diabetes An olive-oil-rich diet is not only a good alternative in the treatment of diabetes mellitus (Bonanome et al., 1991); it can also prevent or slow down the onset of the disease. It prevents insulin resistance and its possible harmful consequences (Wolever et al., 1999; Mancini et al., 1992), it raises HDL-cholesterol and it lowers blood triglycerides (Lerman-Garber et al., 1994). In addition, it ensures better control of the glucose in the blood (Garg et al., 1988, 1993, 1994) and it lowers blood pressure (Rassmussen et al., 1993). Olive oil significantly improves cell glucose utilisation and lowers triglycerides, and it is more pleasing to the palate than a high-carbohydrate diet containing the same amount of fibre (Campbell et al., 1994).

Olive oil and cancer Epidemiological studies have also revealed that olive oil has a protective effect against some types of malignant tumours (breast, prostate, endometrium, digestive tract…) (Trichopoulou, 1995; 1997; Trichopoulou and Lagiou, 1997; Braga et al., 1998; La Vecchia et al., 1995,1999; Gasull et al., 2000). It adds to the palatability of vegetables, pulses and greens whose beneficial effects in the prevention of cancer have been amply proven (Willett and Trichopoulou, 1996; World Cancer Research Fund, 1997).

Olive pie

Olive pie

Increasing life expectancy Olive oil has been shown to streng then the immune system against external attacks caused by microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses (Peck et al., 1995, 1996,2000), (Alvarez Cienfuegos et al., 1999). A research team at the University of Athens, led by Athena Linos, recently found that regular olive oil consumption reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Although the mechanism is not yet clear, the authors suggest that antioxidants are believed to be behind this beneficial effect. Olive oil is rich in vitamin E, which plays a positive biological role in removing free radicals, which are the molecules involved in certain chronic diseases and in the ageing process. Hence, olive oil is believed to play a part in increasing life expectancy.

Olive oil and cognitive functions Olive oil is also good for the brain, according to the findings obtained by Caruso et al. of the University of Bari in 1999. Olive oil consumption provides protection against deterioration of the cognitive functions related to ageing and age-related memory loss.

Olive oil and skin lesions Owing to its vitamin E and antioxidant content olive oil has a protective, toning effect on the skin, which is why it is believed to be especially suited for preventing the appearance of skin lesions.

Olive oil and obesity Olive oil is a very healthy nutrient that has a high calorie value, which might lead to the belief that its consumption encourages obesity. Experience shows, however, that people, who consume most olive oil, suffer less from obesity. It has been proven that, when compared with a low-fat diet, an olive oil diet leads to greater and more lasting weight loss. It is tolerated better because it tastes good and makes eating vegetables more enjoyable (Sacks et al., 1999).

Table olives and health The health-related properties of<a|34> table olives are very similar to those of olive oil. Moreover, recent research conducted by the Garcia-Granados team of the Universidad de Granada and Najera of the Instituto Carlos III in Madrid has discovered that maslinic acid, which is extracted from the olive, might act as an inhibitor of the AIDS virus. Maslinic acid hinders the spread of HIV by inhibiting the action of an enzyme (serine-protease) that uses the virus to burst the cell walls in which it is established and to spread to new cells. This acid may also have a positive effect in the control of malaria by acting as an anti-inflammatory agent, neuronal activator or hepatic protector. At the recent 2000 International Conference on the Mediterranean Diet, a Scientific Exchange was held by key nutritionists from all around the world. On reviewing total fat consumption and a global dietary pattern, they drew up a consensus statement in which they expressly acknowledge the advantages of olive oil and confirm its health benefits as the main source of fat in a healthy diet.

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Source:IOOC

 

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