Olive Oil

September 13, 2005

Olive Oil 

 Competency # 13 FATS                    Reference: Nature 2005 Sep 1; 437 (7055): 45-6 

 Olive Oil is the foundation of the Mediterranean Diet which was recently widely publicized for its lower rates of dementia, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.  35-40 % of calories in the Med Diet are from Olive Oil, so its not just a minor player.  The rest of the Mediterranean Diet consists of an abundance of vegetables of many kinds, small amounts of meat (often fish), and a little bit of wine.  

Vegetable oils as a rule have lots of different ingredients in them, omega fatty acids for one, which play a direct role in lowering LDLs and raising HDLs.  It's not certain which of the ingredients of olive oil play what role in its health effects. But, here is another reason to keep olive oil on your table and drizzle a little on your dinner. Extra virgin oil, in other words, the first pressing, has a newly identified chemical.  It has an anti-inflammatory effect very similar in potency to ibuprofen.  

This chemical is called oleocanthal.  It was found by pure serendipity.  Researchers noticed a slight tingling feeling in the back of their throat when they sampled pure extra virgin olive oil.  The same feeling was noted when taking liquid ibuprofen.  The chemical was isolated using that sensation as a guide. Published in Nature on Sept 1st of this last week, Oleocanthal is a potent inhibitor of cox 1 and cox 2 enzymes, the same that ibuprofen and other non-steroidals depend on. And, it’s in olive oil.  Now, to get pain relief like taking 2 ibuprofen, you would have to drink over a cup of olive oil, so it's not a good pain reliever. But there are hundreds of other minor components in olive oil that have not yet been identified as to their biological effect.  It may be in the total sum of all of them.  That's why eating whole foods is always better than an "extract". Think about switching your cooking oil from corn oil to olive oil.  Try to get some of it every day! 

 WWW:  What Will Work for me.  I’m trying to add olive oil to my diet.  More salad dinners instead of meat, potato vegetables.  Meal salads can be a great way of getting olive oil.  And first pass extra virgin.  It’s got all the antioxidants.

This column is written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5300)