They may not look alike either in appearance or taste but olive oil and breast milk have important nutritional similarities. The extra virgin olive oil contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids at the same rate as the fat of human milk and the same linoleic acid percentage, making it an indispensable nutritional element for myelination of nerve fibers and brain development.
Moreover, because it is highly digestible,it helps in proper gastrointestinal function, preventing the phenomenon of constipation and colic. In fact, olive oil helps in the absorption of vitamin D, important for growing infants and children because it regulates the calcium and phosphorus balance while helping to absorb minerals that are also essential for the ossification process. This gives children extra protection against bone fracture, during the delicate childhood, but also against osteoporosis during their late adulthood.
Moreover, according to recent research data, cholesterol levels have increased in young children in recent years, a fact that has contributed significantly to the increase of childhood obesity, from which one in three children aged 6-9 years are suffering today. In fact, due to the beneficial action of olive oil which lowers the total blood cholesterol level, the “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, doctors recommend replacing animal fat with olive oil to fight rising obesity among young people.
It is also noteworthy that infants whose mothers consume olive oil daily, have a reduced risk of developing respiratory problems such as asthma, according to recent studies. In addition, these infants were found to have a more developed immune system and reduced risk for developing allergies and rhinitis.
In Italy, physicians recommend the administration of oil quantities in milk for infant consumption for babies cut from natural breastfeeding, either this comes from the mother or they are administered a substitute formula, especially in babies who have problems with colic. The reason is that oil facilitates normal bowel function and contains oleuropein, a natural anti-inflammatory compound which mimics the effect of paracetamol, the most widely used active agent for the preparation of painkillers by the pharmaceutical industry.
This point was thoroughly discussed with Dr. Saverio Pandolfi, of the Italian Institute of Plant Genetics. The researcher said that olive oil is the food more similar to breast milk and proposes its addition to infant nutrition, starting with an amount of a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil in each infant meal.
“Olive oil is pleasant in taste for all children because it reminds them the taste of breast milk but it is pleasant even to those who never received oil through diet as Eskimo children or those from Africa,” also said Dr. Pandolfi.
Finally, it is worth noting that the Plasmon, one of the most popular baby food companies in Italy, produces olive oil especially for babies. The company states that this oil is produced from olives grown and processed in Italy using techniques that ensure that the oil reserves the beneficial characteristics to a greater extent.