1. Reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes
The Nurses’ Health Study is a massive ongoing study that follows tens of thousands of women in the US over many years. They assess their diet and various aspects of their lifestyles, then track what diseases they succumb to over time.
After following up almost 60,000 women for over two decades, researchers found that those who consumed more than a tablespoon of olive oil a day had a 10% lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who never consumed it. They also showed that substituting olive oil for stick margarines, butter and mayo had the potential to greatly reduce the risk.
"Those who consumed more than a tablespoon of olive oil a day had a 10% lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who never consumed it"
This study didn’t state whether the oil was truly extra virgin – wonder what result that would give if they did?!
2. Boosts your heart health
The PREDIMED study is one of the most famous Mediterranean Diet studies from Europe. They gave three diets – a control group advised on a low-fat diet and two Mediterranean Diet groups, one supplemented with nuts daily and another with extra virgin olive oil. They followed the groups for almost 5 years.
There were over 7000 people who started the trial with a high risk of cardiovascular disease (think heart disease and stroke). In these people in particular the results were pretty spectacular. Those consuming the most extra virgin olive oil had a whopping 35% lower risk! In fact, for every 10g of extra virgin olive oil they consumed daily, the risk of cardiovascular disease dropped by 10%.
"Those consuming the most extra virgin olive oil had a whopping 35% lower risk"
3. Protects your skin
Getting some sunshine on your bare skin is important for the production of vitamin D, but get too much and you cause oxidative damage that results in skin ageing and potentially skin cancer.
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in a substance called squalene. Squalene concentrates in the skin, where it is a major ‘quencher’ of free radicals, preventing them from damaging skin cells. This is thought to be part of the reason why traditional Mediterranean regions have a lower rate of skin cancer, despite their sunny climates.
"Squalene concentrates in the skin, where it is a major ‘quencher’ of free radicals, preventing them from damaging skin cells"
4. Reduces your risk of cancer
Cancer is a complex process and many times it really is pure bad luck or caused by factors out with your control. However, diet and lifestyle do play a role with extra virgin olive oil standing out as a potentially protective agent.
Extra virgin olive oil is rich in a rich array or phytochemicals, many of which have protective actions. One phytochemical has gained research attention for its anti-cancer effects. That is oleocanthal. It has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, thereby helping to reduce your risk of all sorts of chronic conditions, but has also been shown to prevent the growth of human cancer cells. It may be contributing to the lower risk of skin cancer, but to many other forms of cancer too.
"Oleocanthal has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, thereby helping to reduce your risk of all sorts of chronic conditions, but has also been shown to prevent the growth of human cancer cells"
5. Helps to keep blood pressure down
Usually discussions around diet and blood pressure centre on salt. However, extra virgin olive oil has been shown in rat studies to play a role in protecting against high blood pressure.
The effect seems to be due to the polyphenols. A study in young women with mild hypertension showed that while daily consumption of a polyphenol-rich olive oil decreased their blood pressure, consuming a polyphenol-free olive oil did not. Conclusion? You need to consume true extra virgin olive oil and not a refined olive oil to gain the benefit.
"You need to consume true extra virgin olive oil and not a refined olive oil to gain the benefit."
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Chatting on the Today Show with Sylvia Jeffreys and Ben Fordham on foods and drinks that may help you to live a longer, healthier life.Watch