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12 Health Benefits Of Olive Oil

Benefits Of Olive Oil

  • Reduces oxidative stress
  • Prevents heart diseases
  • Controls diabetes
  • Manages cholesterol

Olive oil is one of nature's powerful gifts that can keep us healthy, strong, and youthful. It is a potent nutritional weapon against coronary heart disease, several cancers, diabetes, arthritis, and more. Thanks to its anti-aging and protective compounds, olive oil has excellent benefits for our skin and hair as well. To get the best out of olive oil, it's important to know the various grades and types of olive oils and how best to use them.

Homer called it “liquid gold,” while Hippocrates considered it “the great healer.”1 What? Olive oil. The ancients used it for everything from cooking to anointing aristocrats. It is only quite recently that the goodness of the Mediterranean diet and, with it, olive oil, has come back to the forefront.

Experts recommend a minimum daily intake of 50 g or about 4 tablespoons to gain the benefits of olive oil.

Of all the grades of olive oil, extra virgin olive oil is richest in antioxidants and thereby in health benefits. Here are some of the health benefits of olive oil.

1. Reduces Cell Damage And Oxidative Stress

All cells in an animal system are protected by cell membranes. But these membranes are under constant threat. Our metabolic processes generate reactive molecules called free radicals which destroy the lipid (fat) layers in the cell membranes. This oxidation process is known as lipid peroxidation. If our body cannot cope with this damage, it comes under oxidative stress.

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats which are highly beneficial in maintaining the integrity of cell membranes as well as preventing oxidative damage in the DNA.2 A high oxidative stress means higher risk of diseases. By decreasing oxidative stress, olive oil reduces your risk of cancer and heart disease.3

2. Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases

Research and clinical trials over the years have established that the Mediterranean diet is the most likely diet to prevent coronary heart disease – where fatty deposits build up inside arteries and block blood flow.

A 3-year trial studied the effects of a Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, and a control diet. The health of the over 7,000 participants was followed for another 5 years. The trial proved that participants following the olive oil-rich and nuts-rich Mediterranean diet showed a much lower risk of CVD, diabetes, and stroke.4 A high level of olive oil consumption has also been found to help prevent stroke among the elderly.5

3. Fights Nerve Damage

Nerve degeneration and subsequent dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are caused by the toxic deposits around the nerve cells called plaque. Oleocanthal, a compound found in extra-virgin olive oil has the capacity to cause structural changes in the plaques and reduce neurological damage. Some research shows that olive oil is very effective in clearing out this plaque from around the brain tissue, thus preventing dementia.6

4. Controls Diabetes

Food containing olive oil can help control spikes in blood sugar among people with type-1 diabetes, says the American Diabetes Association. Such patients will benefit from avoiding a diet rich in butter and using extra-virgin olive oil instead.7

5. Prevents Rheumatoid Arthritis

The typical Mediterranean diet of cooked vegetables and olive oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, has long been considered protective against rheumatoid arthritis. Research shows that olive oil has constituents that may effectively manage inflammation-causing diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.8 9

6. Protects The Digestive Tract

Olive oil works best when eaten with healthy greens.

Studies indicate that olive oil has antimicrobial properties as well. It can protect your digestive tract from H. pylori bacteria, the main cause of gastric ulcers and which sometimes lead to colon cancer. Olive oil inhibits bacterial growth and can accelerate the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones to protect the digestive system.10 It also helps in the easy passage of stool, thus relieving constipation.

7. Reduces Your Risk Of Breast Cancer

Olive oil, as suggested by studies, could actually reduce your risk of breast cancer! Oleuropein, a naturally occurring component of the olive leaf is reported to act as a toxic agent to breast cancer cells. It promotes the programmed death (or apoptosis) of cancerous cells and eliminates them, thus preventing breast cancer.11

8. Aids Weight Loss

A major component of the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil could help you shed those extra pounds. Studies note that regular intake of an olive-oil enriched diet could bring about greater weight loss than even a low-fat diet! The weight loss benefits of olive oil especially hold true for breast cancer survivors.12

9. Manages Cholesterol Levels

About 31.7% adults in the U.S. are affected by “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to oils that contain saturated fat, opt for olive oil. It has high amounts (about around 75-80%) of unsaturated fat, which can reduce your “bad” cholesterol levels.13 14

10. Reduces Stroke Risk

One of the topmost causes of death worldwide, a stroke usually occurs when a blood clot obstructs the circulation of blood in your body. Olive oil is believed to reduce your risk of stroke by up to 41%. In a study, senior participants who included olive oil in their daily diet showed a reduced risk of stroke than those who never used olive oil. Frequent consumption of olive oil increases in your blood plasma, which is associated with lower incidence of stroke in people aged over 65.15

11. Protects You From Alzheimer’s

Apart from reducing the risk of stroke, olive oil can also help prevent you from falling prey to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). By removing abnormal AD proteins from your brain, the unsaturated fats in olive oil prevent the development of the disease. Interestingly, Alzheimer’s risk is also lower in Mediterranean countries and the credits could go to their diet, which majorly comprises of olive oil.16

12. Treats Depression

In lab studies, the administration of olive oil daily has shown to increase nerve signal transmission through the cerebral cortex. This, in turn, is responsible for increased brain function. Olive oil can be effectively used as a nutritive treatment for depression, especially when the individual exhibits low levels of dopamine, a hormone that gives us a sense of motivation and reward.17

Olive oil becomes rancid easily when exposed to heat, light, and air, so store it in a tightly sealed bottle in a cool, dark space.

Obviously, olive oil alone is not a magic fix for our health problems. Other elements of the “Mediterranean diet” play a role too. Fresh vegetables, greens, whole grains and proteins from lean meats, as well as regular exercise as advised by your doctor all come together to keep you fighting fit and stave off the ravages of time.

References   [ + ]

1. Clodoveo, Maria Lisa, Salvatore Camposeo, Bernardo De Gennaro, Simone Pascuzzi, and Luigi Roselli. “In the ancient world, virgin olive oil was called “liquid gold” by Homer and “the great healer” by Hippocrates. Why has this mythic image been forgotten?.” Food Research International 62 (2014): 1062-1068.
2. Cook, Michelle Schoffro. The Brain Wash: A Powerful, All-Natural Program to Protect Your Brain Against Alzheimer’s, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Depression, Parkinson’s, and Other Diseases. John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
3. Owen, Robert W., Attilio Giacosa, William E. Hull, Roswitha Haubner, Gerd Würtele, Bertold Spiegelhalder, and Helmut Bartsch. “Olive-oil consumption and health: the possible role of antioxidants.” The Lancet Oncology 1, no. 2 (2000): 107-112.
4. Estruch, Ramón, Emilio Ros, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Maria-Isabel Covas, Dolores Corella, Fernando Arós, Enrique Gómez-Gracia et al. “Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet.” New England Journal of Medicine 368, no. 14 (2013): 1279-1290.
5. Samieri, C., C. Féart, C. Proust-Lima, E. Peuchant, C. Tzourio, C. Stapf, C. Berr, and P. Barberger-Gateau. “Olive oil consumption, plasma oleic acid, and stroke incidence the three-city study.” Neurology 77, no. 5 (2011): 418-425.
6. Alpert, Patricia T. “Alzheimer’s Dementia: Can It Be Prevented?.” Home Health Care Management & Practice 23, no. 3 (2011): 228-230.
7. After-Meal Blood Glucose Spikes? Try Using Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. American Diabetes Association.
8. Aparicio-Soto, Marina, Marina Sánchez-Hidalgo, Ma Ángeles Rosillo, Ma Luisa Castejón, and Catalina Alarcón-de-la-Lastra. “Extra virgin olive oil: a key functional food for prevention of immune-inflammatory diseases.” Food & Function 7, no. 11 (2016): 4492-4505.
9. Linos, Athena, Virginia G. Kaklamani, Evangelia Kaklamani, Yvonni Koumantaki, Ernestini Giziaki, Sotiris Papazoglou, and Christos S. Mantzoros. “Dietary factors in relation to rheumatoid arthritis: a role for olive oil and cooked vegetables?.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 70, no. 6 (1999): 1077-1082.
10. Wardhana, Eko E. Surachmanto, and E. A. Datau. “The role of omega-3 fatty acids contained in olive oil on chronic inflammation.” inflammation 11 (2011): 12.
11. Elamin, Maha H., Maha H. Daghestani, Sawsan A. Omer, Mai A. Elobeid, Promy Virk, Ebtesam M. Al-Olayan, Zeinab K. Hassan, Osama B. Mohammed, and Abdelilah Aboussekhra. “Olive oil oleuropein has anti-breast cancer properties with higher efficiency on ER-negative cells.” Food and chemical toxicology 53 (2013): 310-316.
12. Flynn, Mary M., and Steven E. Reinert. “Comparing an olive oil-enriched diet to a standard lower-fat diet for weight loss in breast cancer survivors: a pilot study.” Journal of Women’s Health 19, no. 6 (2010): 1155-1161.
13. High Cholesterol Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
14. High cholesterol. National Health Services, Choices.
15. Study finds olive oil ‘lowers stroke risk’. National Health Services, Choices.
16. Explaining how extra virgin olive oil protects against Alzheimer’s disease. American Chemical Society.
17. Bawazir, A. E. “Effects of olive oil on a neurochemical parameters and histological structure in cerebral cortex region in male albino rats.”

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.