Ancient Wisdom & Modern Medicine
Extra virgin olive oil - the nature of good health
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has long been recognized for its health promoting properties. Ancient Greek doctors such as Hippocrates and Dioscurides described more than 60 different therapeutic uses of olive oil, including the treatment of inflammation – one of the most common features of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders (e.g. Alzheimers). They also believed it to be a natural elixir that could stave off illness and promote human longevity. Today, thanks to advances in modern science, we have made great strides in understanding the reasons behind this ancient wisdom. Over the past couple of decades, scientists have isolated and characterized many of the natural phytonutrients believed to be responsible for many of EVOO’s health-related benefits. Together, these phytonutrients provide the foundations of the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world, with inhabitants of the Mediterranean basin exhibiting higher longevity and lower incidence of age-related diseases such as cancer and Alzheimers. What really sets the Mediterranean diet apart from other plant-based diets is that EVOO provides the primary source of dietary fat. EVOO is essentially “olive juice” that is extracted directly from the olive by means of mechanical milling. As no further processing is necessary, it retains most of the olives original components, including chlorophylls, carotenoids, terpenes and polyphenols. This unique amalgam of phytonutrients not only grants olive oil its characteristic flavor, but also endows it with natural pharmacological/pharma-nutritional properties. Perhaps the most important of these are the polyphenol family of phytonutrients, which include many powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds such as hydroxytyrosol and oleocanthal.
Oleocanthal for example is a natural anti-inflammatory compound whose mechanisms of action is similar to Ibuprofen. They both bind the same taste receptors, located towards the back of our tongues. This binding results in a burning sensation after you swallow the olive oil and is one of the signs that you are actually consuming a healthy olive oil. Within the body oleocanthal acts to inhibit the function of proteins called cyclooxygenases. This interaction causes a cascade of biological events which ultimately reduce inflammation. While many clinical studies are now underway to test many these effects directly in patients, we strongly believe in the wisdom of human culture. The best way to enjoy the health benefits of olive oil is to consume daily to experience the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
The evidence base supporting the role of olive oil in healthspan optimization, disease prevention and disease management continues to grow across the primary disease areas. By applying modern analytical methods, we have started to uncover many of the so-called “Bioactive” nutrients that are responsible for these effects. For an overview of the emergent literature around olive oil and associated clinical trials in patients, simply select the appropriate box.
The application of modern analytical methods has allowed us to discover the primary health-giving constituents of olive oil. Many of these so-called “Bioactive nutrients” resemble drugs that the pharmaceutical industry sells to treat the global pandemic of chronic disease. Bioactive nutrients, on the otherhand, are naturally occuring substances, made by the chemical energy provided by the Sun. These molecules keep our cells and physiology working as nature intended. The following is a list of some of the main bioactive nutrients found in olive oil. Simply click the box to learn more about their health effects.