The Myriad of Health Benefits Associated with Consuming Extra Virgin Olive Oil – This New Huffington Post Article Nicely Sums it Up
Could a traditional food have pain- and inflammation-reducing effects similar to over the counter pain medicine like ibuprofen?
Scientists from Italy, Spain, the U.S. and Australia have discovered  that extra virgin olive oil can provide significant health benefits,  including the ability to help reduce pain and inflammation. This robust, flavorful oil is an example of the food as medicine concept, that foods can have a powerful impact on health.  A Mythical, Sacred Oil From ancient Greece to the Holy Land, olive oil has been treasured.   Celebrated as sacred in Greek mythology, the olive branch symbolized  peace in Hellenic culture.  Evidence of this ancient oil was discovered  in 1901 at the “Room of the Olive Press” at Knossos on the island of  Crete in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.  From there olives were pressed  into oil over 4,500 years ago and the olive oil was exported to North  Africa and mainland Greece. Cultivation of olive trees spread around the Mediterranean where  olive oil flourished along with many early civilizations. The bible  speaks of olive oil, and it has been used by Christianity and Judaism as  a holy anointing oil.  Today, the major producers of olive oil are Spain, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco and Syria.  But the growing popularity of olive oil can be seen in the spread of  cultivation around the world to countries such as the U.S., Chile, and  South Africa. Australia has become an energetic olive oil producer and  exporter, and has just announced a record crop. During travels with my family from the south of France to Tuscany  to  Greece I have witnessed the special beauty of the olive tree and tasted  its fruit. Able to withstand heat, sun and survive on only a little  moisture, the hardy olive tree became an icon of the Mediterranean  region.  Freezing temperatures, however, can harm the trees and the  crop. Eating Healthy With Olive Oil Extra virgin olive oil can contribute nutritional support in the fight against such health problems as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and in pain management. A research study from Spain has shown that higher olive oil  consumption is associated with leaner body weight, an important factor  in prevention of chronic conditions. Another study from the universities of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran  Canaria in Spain looked at how diets including olive oil might offer  protection against  depression: Bad Fats Linked to Depression Natural Painkiller Discovered in Olive Oil Recent research has identified the antioxidant called oleocanthal,  which is only found in extra-virgin olive oil. Scientists at the Monell  Chemical Senses Center, in Philadelphia, found that oleocanthal in olive  oil has a potency strikingly similar to that of the drug ibuprofen  in inhibiting the cyclooxygenase (Cox) enzyme that causes pain and  inflammation. Their findings were published in the science magazine Nature. Given the side effects of common pain relieving drugs, finding a  nutritional way to reduce pain and inflammation could be a solution for  people suffering from pain. In another study Italian researchers explain that the characteristic  pungent and bitter taste of virgin olive oil have been attributed to  phenols in the oil that have potential antioxidant, anti-inflammatory,  chemopreventive and anti-cancer benefits. Research on Health Benefits of Olive Oil At the meeting of the “International conference on the healthy effect  of virgin olive oil” that took place in Spain in 2005, numerous  benefits of virgin olive oil from the research were outlined.  They  looked at the consumption of olive oil from the perspective of issues  such as cardiovascular health, cancer and longevity.   With respect to  anti-aging they noted: “The more recent studies consistently support  that the Mediterranean diet, based in virgin olive oil, is compatible  with a healthier ageing and increased longevity.” Consumption of olive oil has been associated with:

  • Reduction of total cholesterol and an increase in  the high-density cholesterol (HDL-C), which has a protective effect on  blood vessels.
  • Improved sensitivity of cells to insulin, which helps to prevent the Metabolic Syndrome.  Preventing Metabolic Syndrome is important, because the syndrome  increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood  pressure and obesity.
  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease.

Potent Antioxidant Power of Olive Oil Phenolic compounds are potent antioxidants found in virgin and  extra-virgin olive oil. These compounds give unrefined olive oils their  distinctive flavors and high degree of stability.
Studies indicate these compounds may be able to:

  • Turn off the activity of genes that produce the kind of inflammation that causes coronary heart disease.
  • Decrease production of inflammatory chemicals called thromboxanes and leukotrienes.
  • Decrease the production of the most damaging form of cholesterol, oxidized LDL cholesterol.
  • University of South Australia researchers note that  compounds from the olive were found to be antimicrobial against various  bacteria.

And olive oil is just the beginning of anti-inflammatory foods. Learn more about fighting pain and inflammation in my article: Natural Anti- Inflammatory Foods and Supplements That Help Arthritis Enjoying Olive Oil The research studies focus on the benefits of extra-virgin olive oil,  so this is what I always buy.  I look for organic oil that has been  grown without pesticides.  Freshness counts, so I like shop where they  sell a lot of oil, such as a big health food store.  Store it in a cool  place. The amount of olive oil associated with protection against  inflammation is only two teaspoons a day, which is easy to achieve.  A  sprinkle of olive oil makes a simple salad dressing, and a little oil  can be used for dipping bread, instead of butter.  Olive oil can also be  used in baking. Here is a popular tangy and sweet recipe from my book The Fat Resistance Diet, an anti-inflammatory dietary program.