The health benefits of olive oil in the Mediterranean diet have become more than a novel observation. Clinical research is substantiating healthy benefits, but the gourmet tastes and flavors are bonuses well worth mentioning too.
“The… patient should be made to understand that they must take charge of his own life. Don’t take your body to the doctor as if he were a repair shop.” -- Quentin Regenstein
Highly favored as cooking oil or for use in various classic dressings, olive oil is being touted in some quarters as a delicious companion to good health. Research on the health benefits of olive oil is impressive, as are the effects of the Mediterranean diet.
Olive Oil as a Cholesterol Reducer
Compared to American cuisine, especially the snack and fast foods prevalent in the US, the Mediterranean Diet has intrigued the medical world. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published findings indicating that introducing olive oil into our regular diet has demonstrated a reduction in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). This is significant because once LDL cholesterol has oxidized, it often results in artery rigidity and accompanying heart disease.
Olive Oil in Cancer Prevention
In a comparison study at the University Hospital Germans Trias Pujol in Barcelona, there seems to be an indication that the health benefits of olive oil may also be helpful in the prevention or slowing of cancer cells. In the study, lab rats were introduced to a carcinogen that resulted in cancerous tumors. The study provides evidence that a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, prevents colonic carcinogenesis and reduces precancerous tissue, resulting in fewer tumors compared to a controlled sample of rats ingesting foods containing other types of cooking oils.
Researchers at Oxford University in England have seen indications that olive oil may be as good for our digestive system as fresh fruit and vegetables in preventing or reducing the incidence of colon cancer. While red meat seems to be linked to the development of colon cancer, fish and olive oil reduce the incidence of colon cancer. The reasons behind this phenomenon are still being considered. Still, it is believed that olive oil may help regulate the bile acid in the stomach while increasing beneficial enzymes within the abdomen that contribute to optimal colon health.
Olive Oil and Heart Health
The American Heart Association has also noted that consumption of olive oil has “clear health benefits.”
Olive Oil and Lower Blood Pressure
By substituting virgin olive oil for other fats within your diet, the Archives of Internal Medicine indicates a substantial reduction in drug dosage requirements for managing high blood pressure. Initial findings indicate dosage reductions could be as high as 50%.
By lowering the level of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), there is an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). The antioxidant effects of olive oil have also been widely reported. They effectively reduce free radicals within the body that may prove to be a causal agent in precancerous and cancerous growth.
Additional health benefits of olive oil may be found in a Mediterranean diet which explores the varied uses of olive oil in food preparation and balanced meal choices. Combined, olive oil and appropriate food choices enhance the overall health of those subscribing to the Mediterranean diet.
While studies remain ongoing, it is encouraging to note that something that has long been noted for good taste may also be a link to positive health benefits and longevity of life. Adapting to the Mediterranean diet may be a healthy yet palatable change worth considering.