Oil & Modern Medicine
The natural “juice” of the olive oil, with its ideal chemical composition and without extracts and conditioners, for centuries has given health and longevity to the Mediterranean people, who used it as the main fat in their daily diet. The food, nutritional and biological value for humans is particularly important putting this olive oil among the 10 most beneficial foods.
On recommendation of the oil substances listed below 600 additional antioxidants must be added, which have not been fully studied to date.
Main constituent of olive oil substances:
- Vitamin E (3-30mg)
- Provitamin A (carotene)
- Monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic) 56 to 83%
- Polyunsaturated non fatty acids (linoleic) 3.5-20%
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids (linolenic) 0-1.5%
- Saturated fatty acids 8-23.5%
- Lipids 99% (990 cals / 100 g)
Olive oil, like all other oils containing fatty acids, are divided into three types: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Animal fats containing mainly saturated fatty acids, vegetable oils mainly polyunsaturated fatty acids, while the oil varies because it contains predominantly monounsaturated fatty acids at up to 83%. Oleic acid, the main component of the oil, is a monounsaturated fatty acid. The other fatty acids of the oil are slightly saturated and some really essential polyunsaturated, such as linoleic acid and linolenic. The coexistence of oleic acid with linoleic and linolenic gives the olive oil a unique biological value.
Oil & Natural Antioxidants
In addition to fats, olive oil contains small amounts of other elements, to which the beneficial properties are due. These components are vitamins and provitamins (A and E), minerals such as selenium, an entire heterogeneous class of (poly) -phenol, particularly substances called antioxidants. Also as their name indicates, these antioxidants protect cells from oxidative stress, active oxygen and free radicals. The latter are substances which have been implicated in the damage to nucleic acids and proteins and are considered the primary damaging agents for various chronic diseases, such as cancer. This review discusses the role of these micronutrients of olive oil, as protective factors for chronic disease states, with particular emphasis on cancer.
Oil & Aging
Aging is a gradual process, accompanied by a series of biological changes that inevitably leads to death.
Research in the past decade in older people showed that those who consumed olive oil were protected against deterioration occurring in the central nervous system and brain over time, thanks to the antioxidant substances.
Oil & Digestive System
Olive oil is the most tolerable fat for the human stomach, always compared to other fats. It presents the best indicator of digestibility and absorption through the intestinal walls. This helps reduce gastric juice, normalizing the feeling of indigestion. Moreover, it creates a feeling of satiety and promotes the digestion of nutrients in food.
Providing it to people who suffer from peptic ulcer, who were fed with food prepared exclusively with oil, had the effect of limiting the extent of ulcer, especially duodenal (lot until healed), while significantly narrowing the amount of pain.
Clinical studies have demonstrated that olive oil has such a high absorption in the gut mucosa that it soothes many intestinal syndromes and assists in proper functioning of the colon, while significantly reduces or eliminates the symptoms of constipation. One or two tablespoons of raw olive oil early in the morning is ideal for people suffering from chronic constipation, or when it occasionally occurs during pregnancy, fasting and diet high in protein content.
Oil & Bile
In 1932, M. Chirary published the information that the first doctor Touarte in 1887 officially recommended olive oil as a treatment against gallstones and liver colic. According to Chirary olive oil is not able to eliminate or break stones, however it aids in the bile secretion process. So we recommend that patients suffering from bile, indigestion and stomach pains take 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil flavored with a few drops of lemon every morning for about 10 days a month.
Olive oil protects the human skin from sunlight and burns that it can cause.
This property is due to the action of vitamin E and provitamin A and to the polyunsaturated fats. Additionally it protects and inhibits the development particularly of childhood eczema and relieves insect bites.
In 1988 the results of a new survey were announced, according to which the chlorophyll substance as occurring exclusively in olive oil promotes the metabolism, stimulates cell growth and contributes to hematopoiesis, thus accelerating the wound healing process.
Oil & Skeleton Development
In 1980 Laval-Jeantet and his colleagues presented an interesting study on the role of lipids in the development of bone system of the human body, which enrich the bones with minerals.
In this study, newly weaned mice were given foods whose lipids differ in terms of quantity and of fatty acid synthesis. The findings show that fat is vital for skeletal development and that better growth and mineralization observed in the case of oleic glycerides intake, supplemented by a minimal amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which mainly exist in oil.
The same researchers found anatomical differences in size, thickness and texture of bone in people who consumed olive oil and concluded that oleic acid plays a major role in the development of bone tissue, which is confirmed by recent studies.
Olive oil – Cholesterol & Heart Disease
During the past decade dozens of epidemiologic studies (Seven Countries Study) came into light, which concluded that olive oil protects against cardiovascular disease.
The dietary pattern of Mediterranean residents and particularly Cretans comprises of abundant carbohydrates, increased amounts of fruit and vegetables, small or moderate amounts of meat and dairy products, several pulses, moderate amounts of fish and a lot of vegetable oil, which is exclusively olive oil. Some researchers added red wine while there were many who argued that the same Mediterranean environment and the cultural and philosophical beliefs that characterize its people also play an important role.
All data, however, converged to the fact that the original cause of cardiovascular diseases is not so much the total amount of fat that a person receives through their diet as particularly choosing them. Consequently, the correct ratio of saturated fatty acids and monounsaturated is what protects against heart diseases.
Studies and surveys reached this very conclusion, starting a review of health claims for all monounsaturated fats, and particularly olive oil.
The resurgence of scientific interest in the oil was triggered by the realization that high concentrations of “good” cholesterol levels (HDL) are as important for good cardiovascular health as low “bad” cholesterol (LDL).
Olive oil, which is essentially one of the major monounsaturated fats, increases “good” cholesterol levels while it lowers “bad”, building a well-balanced system of lipids in the blood. Thus it prevents the formation of “tiles” of fat in artery walls, which eventually evolve into clots and cause coronary or infarction heart attacks. This advantage olive oil, combined with the increased content of natural antioxidants and other really substantial beneficial elements, which give a balanced chemical composition, is ranked first in the list of foods which contribute to the low level of cholesterol in the blood, providing protection against cardiovascular disease, such as coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction.
The effect of different fats in the body and their metabolism per meal, studied in recent experimentation of Professor of Preventive Medicine and Nutrition, in University of Crete, Antonis Kafatos. The first experiment compared the lipemic responses in men from South and North Europe, consuming foods with differing fat. The results showed that individuals from Crete had the largest and best maneuverability of fat after a meal, due to the consumption of olive oil, which acts towards blocking the thrombus formation, thus minimizing the risk of infarction.
Oil & diseases of the Urinary System
The oil reduces the kidney adhesion of trans fatty acids, which are involved in the creation of arteriosclerosis in the cells and reduces some of the undesirable symptoms of chronic renal failure, and protects the kidney from the toxic effects of other fats or drugs. Furthermore, as mentioned in the chapter on arteriosclerosis, the renal vessels are also protected by the action of oxidized LDL, and their phagocytosis by macrophages of the arteries. So olive oil, limiting the creation of renal arteriosclerosis, enables a better and more efficient functioning of the organ, allowing the elimination of toxic substances, especially in situations of reduced renal function.
Epidemiological results derived from the research team which conducted the study in the seven countries, indicate a reduced incidence of cancer by 35% generally, in subjects fed the model of the Mediterranean diet. Cancer of the prostate is considered a nutritionally dependent cancer, like cancers of the stomach, colon, pancreas, ovarian, endometrial and breast cancer. The Western diet contains 40% of calories in the form of fat which, in the typical Mediterranean diet, it is almost exclusively olive oil. Although limited, references related to the protective association of olive oil with prostate cancer begin to appear in the international bibliography. It seems that a diet rich in saturated fats increases the ability to cause metastases, which is inhibited by consuming olive oil.
Studies from the end of the 1980s have shown particular trends regarding dietary dependence of prostate cancer. So, it seems that milk is an aggravating factor for the development of this cancer. This must probably be attributed to the presence of high concentrations of saturated fats in milk and dairy products, given that our research group has recently demonstrated that the milk proteins, cleavable, yield peptides which selectively reduce the proliferative potential of prostate cancer cells, thus suggesting a protective effect of dairy products. It is noted at this point that the consumption of dairy products, and especially cheese, is a part of the Cretan diet, but also common in all the Greek population; actually, it is the largest worldwide, even greater than that of France.
Moreover, it seems that a diet rich in cereals is also a protective factor. Finally, the antioxidant activity of various substances, including lycopene(an antioxidant which is found in tomatoes) with a primary role, is a major protective agent against prostate cancer. Therefore, the anti-cancer activity of the oil in the prostate may be due to the abundance of the antioxidants it contains. These same substances are further responsible for enhancing the antioxidant capacity of the kidney.
Olive & Childhood Brain – Skeleton Development /strong>
Nutrition is a very important issue for infants and children. An incorrect diet in childhood, with excessive nutrients or in very small quantities, may ultimately be responsible for many unpleasant consequences in later life.
Lipids play a very important role in infant and child nutrition, both in quantitative and qualitative terms.
The requirements in lipids are greater in childhood than in adulthood. According to a rough estimate, 50% of the total calorie intake for children who are breastfeeding is in the form of lipids, with a ratio of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated acids of 4: 3: 1 and with an average of cholesterol of about 150 mg. Thus, polyunsaturated correspond to 8-10% of these lipids. Of this percentage, 5-8% belongs to the series ω3 (these rates can vary greatly depending on the diet of the mother). Once weaned, the baby still requires a relatively large amount of lipids, which is gradually reduced to 30% of the total calories consumed in the early and in later childhood, to be adapted to the relevant requirements of adults.
An infant’s diet should meet the ratio of 4: 3: 1 of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which is similar to that of human milk, since all the fatty acids are essential for the balanced development of the child.
An experimental study on the effects of olive oil, sunflower oil and saturated fats, shows the appearance of lesions in the structural lipids of the brain and liver of those animals which were fed exclusively with sunflower, but not of those fed with olive oil. These lesions show that the growing tissues require a sufficient amount of essential fatty acids in a balanced ratio course.
Therefore, olive oil is the one which provides enough essential fatty acids for the proper development of newborns and most importantly, its ratio is similar to that of breast milk.
Moreover, according to new studies, olive oil affects favorably the growth and development of the central nervous system and brain of newborns and prevents high cholesterol, especially in children with a strong family history, because of the monounsaturated oleic acid and linolenic acid it contains.
In the world bibliography it is often noted that the glyceride composition of olive oil is similar to that of breast milk. Simultaneously it was demonstrated that mothers who are breastfeeding and which consume significant quantities of oil in their daily diet, produce milk with excellent fatty acid content, thereby ensuring the normal growth of neonatal nervous system.
Olive oil & Cancer
From the study of the seven countries of the Mediterranean basin and its extensions, it became apparent that people who followed the Mediterranean diet pattern had 35% fewer deaths due to cancer. At the same time, it was shown that deaths from cancer were dependent on the consumption of saturated fats while replacing saturated with monounsaturated fats (like olive oil) reduced the incidence of the disease. Indeed, in these studies, olive oil was an almost exclusive source of monounsaturated fatty acids intake. So the researchers concluded that consumption of olive oil is what is related to the reduced cancer death rate.
An experimental colon carcinogenesis in guinea pigs causes multiple tumor foci. The number and size of the outbreaks have been associated with the administered fat in their diet. Feeding animals with a diet rich in olive oil leads to a significantly lower number of tumor foci in the intestine, compared to animals fed with saturated fats. Also, cancer metastasis to distant organs such as the liver, is reduced or even absent when the animals are given olive oil. The active ingredient of the oil in this form of cancer, is oleic acid itself, which at the same time can inhibit both growth and proliferation of cancer cells. Thus, the oil proves to be a great protective factor, in order to avoid both the creation of experimental cancer of the intestine and its metastases and for the proliferation of the cells themselves. It is also noted that the oil, reducing its activity and exacerbating the removal of toxic substances, reduces the action of chemical carcinogens.
The stomach, colon, pancreas, prostate, ovarian, endometrial and breast cancers are considered to depend on the diet. In the study of the seven countries, populations fed according to the model of the Mediterranean diet have a 35% reduction of cancer disease. The typical Western diet contains 40% of calories in the form of fats. Comparing the western with the one of Japan or China (where the typical consumption of fats is between 10 and 20% and the fat is completely different from those in the Western diet) we acquired the first evidence for the effect of saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats derived from fish oils on cancer incidence. Thus it appears that the n-6 polyunsaturated fats are an aggravating factor of certain cancers such as colon and breast. In contrast, the n-3 unsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid, by modifying the metabolism and the production of prostaglandins which are involved in cell proliferation, are flame or a protective agent in these cancers.
Population studies in colon cancer show that the principal mode of action of olive oil and the Mediterranean dietary pattern is their effect on the metabolism and the production of prostaglandins, and protect cells against the action of oxidizing agents. Furthermore, studies which have been conducted in Italy show that there is a reduction of gastric cancer in areas where olive oil is consumed, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits (especially citrus), garlic, onion, and small amounts of aromatic plants, all essential ingredients of the Mediterranean and Cretan diet . This may have led to reduced gastric cancer incidence in Southern Italy. Further studies of the same research group showed that the principal substances responsible for this action are vitamins C and E, essential components of the Mediterranean diet.
At this point, it is again noted that, at least in the Cretan diet, even today 70% of the daily intake of vitamin E is made through the oil. Perhaps the most epidemiological data in humans, regarding the effects of olive oil and cancer, have been collected about breast cancer. Today the protective effect of olive oil on this cancer is almost a certainty. Thus, the Mediterranean type diet is considered responsible for the reduction of breast cancer cases in Southern Italy, Greece or Spain. A study in 2564 hospitalized patients has demonstrated that there was a lower incidence of breast cancer in individuals who consumed more olive oil per day. Similar results have been reported for pancreatic cancer and endometrium, with a 26% reduction in the incidence in people who consumed more oil daily. The fact that the Greeks who migrated to Australia and changed their eating pattern show a higher level of breast cancer, is an additional element which supports the anti-cancer action of olive oil in the breast.
From what has been reported, it appears that a diet rich in olive oil reduces the incidence of stomach cancer, colon, prostate, and particularly breast cancer. Finally it is worth noting that a diet rich in olive oil increases the screening ability of CT and especially MRI, allowing the detection of very small tumors.
According to the recent research by Dr. D. Trichopoulos of the Harvard School of Public Health, women who consume olive oil more than once a day are 25% less likely to develop breast cancer compared to those who rarely consume olive oil.
For example, in the Mediterranean region, where high oil consumption is noted, there is low frequency of several cancers, including breast, ovarian and endometrial.
Oil & Sport Activity
The lipids and hydrocarbons are two of the most important nutritive substances, which provide the main chemical energy necessary for any physical activity.
Hydrocarbons are the main source of energy for a person with intense muscle activity. However, the reserves of the body are very moderate. Therefore, it is necessary to continuously update the stocks of lipids, especially in people who deal with strenuous activities such as sports.
During rest and moderate exercise conditions the lipids are the predominant energy substrate. However, during short but intense activity, the contribution of hydrocarbons decreases. If vigorous physical activity lasts a lot, the lipid consumption gradually increases. It is therefore easy to understand why a mixed diet, relatively rich in fats, is important in cases of intense training, strengthening the body.
As regards energy efficiency, there are no significant differences between the various fatty acids, animal or vegetable. In this respect, there are therefore no specific indications or contraindications to the selection of dietary lipids for athletes. However, several researchers argue that the unsaturated fatty acids are used by the body better than the saturated ones. However, in the diet of athletes there should be a restriction on the intake of animal fat, because the presence of saturated fatty acids, combined with the existence of high cholesterol, is an agent for possible occurrence of ischemic heart disease even in athletes. That happens, although the physical activity improves lipid levels, lowering blood triglycerides.
However, despite the positive effect of physical activity on lipid levels, it is still wise for someone to keep a prudent diet, following healthy dietary rules. Bearing in mind what is known about lipid peroxidation and the chain reaction of free radicals that often follows, the unsaturated fatty acids require close monitoring to determine whether a greater intake of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated acids is required. The effects of lipid peroxidation and reactions of free radicals should not be underestimated because they can cause even anoxia, which means damage in the skeletal and cardiac muscles of athletes.
The problem that arises, therefore, for an athlete’s diet has to do with limiting the growth of free radicals. This can be achieved by a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables and monounsaturated fatty acids (olive oil).
A lot of attention is also required both in the quantity, which should cover the needs of the specific activity, and the quality of lipids. Specifically, the intake of lipids should account for less than 30% of the total calories consumed. It should be gradually increased during the training, especially in the case of sports, which last for more than 30 minutes, because the intense and prolonged physical activity leads to an increase in fat consumption.
As for the quality, animal fats derived from animals living on land and which contain fatty acids and cholesterol should be limited because it may cause an increase of cholesterol, although the exercise normalizes lipid levels (lowest amount blood triglyceride and higher HDL).
Thus, fats in which monounsaturated fatty acids dominate should be preferred, which are susceptible to oxidation processes and do not favor the creation of free radicals. Rather than what is true about linoleic and alpha-linoleic acid, oleic acid needs little antioxidant protection. The olive oil, therefore, is to be preferred not only due to the balanced composition of fatty acids but also because of the natural antioxidants it contains, mainly of alpha-tocopherol, polyphenols, squalene, etc., that protect against peroxidation and the generation of free radicals and promote the body’s metabolism.
Olive oil & Diabetes
The olive oil according to modern clinical observations plays a dynamic role in the “maintenance” of diabetes mellitus at low levels, particularly in the non-insulin-dependent type.
According to bibliography data of the past decade, diabetics were administered ration whose calorie value was covered by 30-45% with olive oil (monounsaturated fatty acids). The results of this “diet” were the reduction of lipoprotein a and b in the blood serum, the stability of the cholesterol level and the parallel reduction of the levels of triglycerides in the blood serum.
Recent announcements (Sirtori, 1986) argue that olive oil ,when taken as the only fat especially for people with diabetes, acts favorably to slow emptying of stomach contents into the duodenum. In this way the carbohydrate digestion takes place at a slow rate without leading to a sharp rise in blood glucose.
The stability of the blood glucose levels and no activation of gluconeogenesis mechanism in the liver, make the oil a mild, tasty and yet effective “drug”, which may alleviate diabetic individuals (without of course ever suspending medication).