Olive Oil, The Secret Weapon Behind the Success of the Mediterranean Diet
Lately there has been a lot of publicity surrounding the time honored Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean diet has been credited as being one of the healthiest diet on earth. Those who are from this area have a lower incident of heart disease and obesity, they experience greater overall health, than those of us living in the United States, who have been consuming the Western Diet, with all of its horrible consequences . The Mediterranean Diet has many good components that contribute to its success. This diet includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, healthy grains as well as nuts. There is also the use of herbs instead of salt, as well as drinking wine in moderation, a couple of times a week. It is also recommended that you eat with your family and exercise regularly.
All these dietary practices contribute greatly to one’s overall health. However, there is one component to the Mediterranean diet that contributes to its overall success. This special ingredient is extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil contains specific compounds known as polyphenols.
Polyphenols are defined as follows: an antioxidant phytochemical (as chlorogenic acid) that tends to prevent or neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals, and any of various alcohols containing two or more benzene rings that each have at least one hydroxyl group (OH) attached. Many polyphenols occur naturally in plants and some kinds, such as the flavonoids and tannins, are believed to be beneficial to health. This is the definition of polyphenols in both the medical and scientific dictionaries. The definition of polyphenols in a nutshell is as follow: they are a substance that occurs naturally in plants, that tend to neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals.
You may then wonder, why are polyphenols so important and how are they associated with the consumption of olive oil? Recent research has been made and the discoveries are astounding. Polyphenols are now discovered to dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease and even help those who already have heart disease. Researchers have discovered that olive oil increased beneficial high-density lipoproteins (HDL) levels, and they decrease plasma triglycerides, which is the main contributor to high cholesterol levels in the blood.
Even though it is highly recommended by most physicians for patients to take a low dose aspirin, in order to benefit from its anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce the risk of clotting that leads to heart attacks. It has been discovered in a recent study that they polyphenols reduce the stickiness of blood platelets as effectively as aspirin does and without any of the side effects or stomach discomfort that aspirin can produce. Hydroxytyrosol acetate, which is the type of polyphenols contained in olive oil, inhibits the activity of the body’s natural clotting factor. The polyphenols in olive oil have even been proven effective in reducing experimentally induced inflammation, in laboratory rats. Animal with adjuvant arthritis had started to improve when fed a diet rich in polyphenols.
The Mediterranean Diet is not only beneficial to the cardio vascular system, but it also helps prevent cancer. Fatty acid synthase, an enzyme that helps convert carbohydrates into fats is inhibited by the polyphenols in olive oil and this in turn brings about an anti-cancer effect. It has been discovered that extra virgin olive oil polyphenols, lignans, flavonoids, and secoiridoids were found in significantly reduced fatty acid synthase protein in breast cancer cells. This further proves that the polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil have certain properties that are beneficial in the fight against cancer.
Not only do these polyphenols inhibit fatty acid synthase, but they also have been found to also inhibit cancer cell production as well. Data has suggested that olive oil polyphenols may exert a chemopreventive effect in the large intestine. This is accomplished by the polyphenols interacting with the signaling pathways responsible for cancer development. There have been several studies from laboratories in Ireland, Greece and Spain that back up the claims that the polyphenols in olive oil are a great weapon in the fight against cancer.
If it wasn’t enough, that olive oil polyphenols help in the fight against cancer and cardio vascular illness, they are also useful in the fight against type 2 diabetes. Amylin, which is a pancreatic hormone responsible for regulating blood levels by working in conjunction with insulin, does its job when kept in tact. The problem is that sometimes an abnormal form called toxic peptide aggregate amylin is produced by the body and this destroys the cells in the pancreas responsible for making insulin. This in turn causes diabetes. Oleuropein a primary component of olive prevents toxic aggregate amylin from destroying insulin cells.
Here’s the cherry on the cake, along with all the other benefits previously stated, the polyphenols in olive oil is also good for aging bones. In studies done in France it has been discovered that the primary polyphenols Oleuropein is instrumental in preventing inflammation-induced loss of the mineral in bones, and this in turns helps prevent osteoporosis.
Of all of nature’s wonders, the polyphenols found in extra virgin olive oil is one of the most amazing in the fight against various degenerative diseases. Consuming olive oil is one of the best ways; to use the food we eat, to heal the body. Here’s a tip for selecting the best olive oil. When buying olive oil, make sure it is extra virgin and first cold pressed. This makes for a healthy advantage. So instead of reaching for the medicine cabinet, and thus having to endure a myriad of side effects, why not just go into your kitchen a sprinkle the extra virgin olive oil and use it when having to cook your meals.