Olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, is a major component of the Mediterranean diet. Populations from that region have longer life expediencies and lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, compared with North Americans and Northern Europeans.
What is olive oil?
Olive oil is a fat obtained from the fruit of the Olea europaea (olive tree), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean region, where whole olives are pressed to produce olive oil.
The oil is used in cosmetics, medicine, cooking and soaps, and was also used as a fuel for traditional lamps. Although originating in the Mediterranean countries, today it is used worldwide.
Greece has the highest olive oil intake per person in the world. Greeks consume, on average, 24 liters per-person-per-year, according to the North American Olive Oil Association. Spaniards and Italians consume about 15 and 13 liters-per-person-per year, respectively.
Possible health benefits of olive oil
Over the last 50 years, there have been thousands of studies examining the health benefits of olive oil. Below are some examples:
Prevent cardiovascular system from diseases
Olive oil is the main source of dietary fat in the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with a low death rate from cardiovascular diseases compared to other parts of the world.
The study found that people who regularly consume olive oil are much less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and hyperlipidemia (high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels).
Many researches found that older people who regularly used olive oil for cooking and salad dressing or with bread, had a 41% lower risk of stroke, compared with their counterparts who never consumed it.
Lowers the risk of depression
People whose diets are high in trans fats – fast foods and mass-produced foods like pastries – may have a higher risk of depression, compared with those whose diets are rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
According to a study carried out at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain , olive oil appears to have a slight protective effect regarding depression risk.
May reduce breast cancer risk
A team of scientists at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain found a key mechanism by which virgin olive oil protects the body against breast cancer, in contrast to other vegetable oils.
Helps maintaining healthy cholesterol levels
A Japanese study published in the Medical Science Monitor showed that LDL-cholesterol mean concentrations were lowered in 28 outpatients who were given olive oil supplements once a day for six weeks.
Extra virgin olive oil and Alzheimer’s disease
Oleocanthal is a type of natural phenolic compound found in extra-virgin olive oil. In laboratory experiments with mice, researchers discovered that oleocanthal helps shuttle the abnormal Alzheimer’s disease proteins out of the brain.
Reducing acute pancreatitis
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in oleic acid and hydroxytyrosol, which affect the development of acute pancreatitis (sudden inflammation of the pancreas).
Protects the liver
Studies, carried out at universities in Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, demonstrate that extra virgin olive oil may protect the liver from oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress refers to cell damage associated with the chemical reaction between free radicals and other molecules in the body. Put simply, oxidative stress means cell damage.
May help protect from ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis, a fairly common long-term (chronic) disorder, is a disease that causes inflammation of the large intestine (colon). It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that is similar to Crohn’s disease, a related disorder.
Olive oil in cosmetics
Olive oil is used as a key ingredient in a wide variety of soaps, creams, lotions, shampoos and other cosmetic products.
But it can also be used by itself to moisturize and nourish dry skin and chapped lips, to strengthen weak and brittle nails, to restore and beautify hair and scalp.
In fact, olive oil offers a great alternative to commercial cosmetics, that are full of chemicals and which often end-up damaging your skin, leaving it dry and irritated. Instead, olive oil can be used to hydrate and cleanse your skin, while also balancing your natural oil skin production, leaving you with radiant skin.
Using olive oil for your skin could be as simple as applying and massaging extra virgin olive oil with your hands, and then washing with a washcloth wet with hot water. The water’s heat opens up your skin pores and allows them to release dead skin cells and other impurities, which are then conveniently removed with the washcloth.
Using olive oil for your hair treatment(dry hair) is equally simple and effective, as the extra virgin olive oil cleanses, hydrates and nourishes your hair and scalp.
Olive oil’s cosmetic properties were known to the ancient cultures around the Mediterranean, and addition to its health benefits, which they intuitively knew to be true.