Health Benefits of Olive Oil


In addition to the wonderful flavor it adds to your food, olive oil is also one of nature's healing wonders. This liquid gold works to keep hearts healthy, may reduce inflammation and the risk of certain cancers, and might even play a role in controlling diabetes and weight. This is because olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, which lowers bad cholesterol without affecting good cholesterol. In this article you'll learn how to use olive oil to improve your health. Here's a quick preview:
  • Olive Oil Health Basics

    Olive trees first grew in the Mediterranean region thousands of years ago. They have spread to all areas of the world as the health benefits of olive oil have become well documented. It just so happens that nature provided dietary fats in the olive in the exat ratio that human beings need them. On this page you'll learn about different dietary fats and why the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats in olives are beneficial.

  • Heart Benefits From Olive Oil

    It seems like a simple change, but switching from saturated fats to
    monounsaturated fat to prepare your food can produce big benefits. Researchers have shown that the phytochemicals in olive oil can fight cholesterol and prevent heart disease. On this page you'll learn why  "thinning" the blood with phytochemicals produces these health benefits.

  • Inflammation Benefits From Olive Oil

    Inflammation is the immune system's first line of defense against injury and infection. It's a natural process that is designed to heal. But too much of a good thing can be painful and ultimately harmful to the body, even going so far as causing organ damage and diabetes. Fortunately, olive oil has a compound called oleocanthal that controls inflammation. Learn more about inflammation and why olive oil keeps it in check on this page.

  • Cancer Benefits From Olive Oil

    There once was a time when medical researchers linked various cancers to the amount of fat in our diets. Now, many believe that the type of fat is more important than the amount. There is plenty of controversy and much research left to be done on the role olive oil may play in the fight against cancer. But some people believe it can lower your risk of colon, prostate, and breast cancer, and on this page you'll learn why.

  • Diabetes Benefits From Olive Oil

    Diabetes causes severe spikes and drops in blood sugar levels, so people with this disease have to be very careful to maintain blood sugar. One way to do this is to eat a diet low in carbohydrates. Now, some researchers are starting to think that a diet high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, is even more effective. On this page you'll learn about the latest research on how to use olive oil to manage diabetes.

  • Weight-Loss Benefits From Olive Oil

    Carrying too much weight is a condition that goes hand-in-hand with high levels of cholesterol, heart disease, and other ailments. But there's good news: Merely switching to monounsaturated fats, which also work against those other diseases, will in itself help you lose a few pounds. Add a regular regimen of exercise and you're well on your way to your proper wieght. Find out how to use olive oil in your overall weight loss effort on this page.
To learn more about the topics covered on this article, check out the links below:
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Olive Oil Health Basics

A diet that is rich in olive oil has enhanced the health of people living in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. Within the past century, however, olive oil's benefits have also been scientifically investigated, acknowledged, and proclaimed across the globe.

The Hardy Olive Tree
An olive tree can live 1,000 years or more. Even if the tree dies or is cut or damaged, sprouts from its roots can grow into full-size, fruit-bearing trees. Olive trees succeed in climates in which there are mildly cold winters (they need cooler temperatures to set the buds that later form the fruit) and long, hot summers.

During the growing season, olives need a lot of dry heat. The tough trees don't need much water and can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit for brief periods of time.

Many theories exist as to where olive trees originated, but one that is fairly well accepted is that they first grew in Asia Minor, the land bridge between Europe and Asia that is now home to Turkey and Syria. Evidence shows that humans in this area were using olives more than 8,000 years ago.

Historians believe olive use spread throughout the rest of the Mediterranean region about 6,000 years ago. Phoenicians carried olive trees to what is now southern Europe, as well as to Egypt and other areas along the North African coast. Like garlic, olive remnants have been found inside Egyptian tombs, signifying the important role they played in that culture.

Later, the Greeks and Romans put olives to good use. People in both of these ancient civilizations used olive oil to counteract poisons and to treat open wounds, insect bites, headaches, and stomach and digestive problems. They also applied olive oil to the body before bathing (it functioned as soap) and then again afterward to moisturize the skin and to form a barrier against dirt and the sun's rays. The Romans took olives along in their travels, planting them wherever they went and spreading their beneficial qualities to many regions.

Healing Through the Ages

The olive's medicinal properties have helped people for thousands of years, and those who reaped the benefits of the fruit didn't keep its wonderful secrets to themselves. During the past several hundred years, olive trees made their way around the world to areas in which they could be successfully cultivated, including North America, South America, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.


As the olive migrated, folk remedies that used olive oil evolved to reflect the times and maladies of different regions. Olive oil was taken by mouth, spread on the skin, and dropped into the ears or nose. People considered it both a cure and a preventative measure for many afflictions. Here are some popular folk remedies that have been used over the years:
  • Take a spoonful or two to treat an upset stomach, difficult digestion, or constipation or to reduce the body's absorption of alcohol from alcoholic beverages.

  • Apply to skin to prevent dryness and wrinkles, to soften the skin, and to treat acne.

  • Use on the hair to make it shiny and to treat dandruff.

  • Strengthen nails by soaking them in warm olive oil.

  • Ease aching muscles by massaging them with olive oil.

  • Lower blood pressure by boiling olive tree leaves and drinking the "tea."

  • Clear nasal congestion with drops of olive oil in the nose.

Olive oil has been used medicinally for thousands of years.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Olive oil has been used medicinally
for thousands of years.

A word of caution: Using olive oil as a folk remedy may not be safe for children. In November 2005, an article in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine and an ensuing report by Reuters Health cautioned caregivers against giving infants and young children a dose of olive oil to treat digestive problems, fussiness, and stuffy noses.

Oil administered through the mouth or nose may be inhaled into the lungs and can cause lipoid pneumonia. You should always consult a pediatrician before trying any treatment -- whether folk remedy or over-the-counter drug -- on a child.


Chronic diseases and conditions that are caused, in part, by unhealthy foods and sedentary lifestyles plague many societies today, especially those in the Western world. The good news is olive oil may help with the worst of them, including heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), metabolic syndrome, inflammation, cancer, diabetes, and problems associated with obesity.

These conditions take many years to develop, but inactivity and consumption of too much solid fat (saturated fat and trans fat) greatly increase your chances of having to deal with them. However, olive oil and diets rich in monounsaturated fat may help combat the development of some chronic conditions.

Fat Facts About Olive Oil

It may seem remarkable that such a small dietary change -- switching from one type of fat to another -- can significantly impact your health, but as you will see here, the type of fat you fancy really matters. Some fats, especially olive oil, have more healthful properties than others, so to make the right choices, it's important to know the differences among the various kinds.

There are four types of dietary fats, also known as fatty acids, and each has different health effects, depending on its source and how it is produced.

Monounsaturated fat. This is the healthiest type of fat. It promotes heart health and might help prevent cancer and a host of other ailments. Monounsaturated fat helps lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels without negatively affecting the "good" HDL cholesterol. Olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, and avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fat.

Polyunsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fat is moderately healthy. It lowers LDL cholesterol, which is good, but it also reduces levels of artery-clearing HDL cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fat is usually liquid at room temperature and is the predominant type of fatty acid in soybean oil, safflower oil, corn oil, and several other vegetable oils.

Saturated fat. This fat is unhealthy because the body turns it into artery-clogging cholesterol, which is harmful to your heart. Saturated fat is mostly found in animal products and is solid at room temperature. It is the white fat you see along the edge or marbled throughout a piece of meat and is the fat in the skin of poultry. It is also "hidden" in whole milk and foods made from whole milk, as well as in tropical oils such as coconut oil. Dietitians recommend that people eat only small amounts of saturated fat.
   

Trans fat. Trans fat is the worst type of fat; you're best off avoiding it. Most trans fat is manufactured by forcing hydrogen into liquid polyunsaturated fat in a process called hydrogenation. The process can create a solid fat product -- margarine is made this way. Hydrogenation gives foods that contain trans fats a longer shelf life and helps stabilize their flavors, but your body pays a big price.

The body recognizes trans fat as being saturated and converts it to cholesterol, which raises LDL levels and lowers HDL levels. What's worse is that unlike saturated fat, trans fat disrupts cell membranes.

Cell membranes are comprised of uniformly configured fatty acid chains that are linked together through tight chemical bonds. When trans fat works its way into the chains, it alters these bonds and creates "leaks" in the cell membrane. This action upsets the flow of nutrients and waste products into and out of the cell and may be linked to reduced immune function and possibly cancer.

Fried foods may contain a lot of trans fat, which you're better off avoiding altogether.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Fried foods may contain a lot of trans fat, which you're
better off avoiding altogether -- no matter how good it tastes.

Fried foods in restaurants may contain large amounts of trans fats if they are cooked in partially hydrogenated oil. However, thanks to pressure from consumer and health groups, some restaurants are now using liquid soybean oil rather than partially hydrogenated soybean oil. This costs the restaurant a little more but is healthier for you.

Many fast-food restaurant chains display a nutrition facts brochure -- check this literature to see how much trans fat is in each food. When dining elsewhere, ask your server whether the cooks use a trans-fat-free oil. When frying foods at home, be sure to use a liquid oil, such as heart-healthy olive oil, rather than shortening, which is created by hydrogenation.

Meat and milk are also sources of trans fat, but they contain very little. These naturally occurring trans fats do not appear to have any negative health consequences.

Majority Rules

The fat we eat is made up of varying amounts of the different fats just described. When a food is predominantly comprised of one type of fat, we call it by that name. For instance, olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat. Even though it contains other types of fat, olive oil is referred to as a monounsaturated fat.

You'll see at a glance that olive oil outweighs any other fat when it comes to health-promoting monounsaturated fat content.

 Type of fat            
Monounsaturated
Polyunsaturated
Saturated       
Other elements
Olive oil  74 %
8 %  14 %  4 % 
Canola oil  59 %  30 %  7 %  4 % 
Peanut oil  46 %  32 %  17 %   5 % 
Corn oil
24 %  59 %  13 %  4 % 
Soybean oil 23 %  58 %  14 %  4 % 
Sunflower oil 20 %  65 %  10 %  5 % 
Safflower oil 14 %
75 %
6 %  5 % 
Walnut oil 23 %
63 %  9 %  5 % 
Palm kernel oil
11 %
2 %  81 %  6 % 
Palm oil 37 %
9 %  50 %  4 % 
Coconut oil 6 %
2 %  86 %  6 % 
Butter 30 %
4 %  62 %  4 % 
Shortening 30 %
37 %  29 %  4 % 
Tallow (rendered fat
of cattle or sheep)
42 %
4 %  50 %  4 % 
Note: Due to rounding, not all values will equal 100 percent for each type of fat
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2005. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page,
www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl

An Olive's Omegas

There are two important polyunsaturated fats that are essential for human health, but the body cannot make them. This means we must get them from the foods we eat. These two essential fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. The body gets both from olive oil.

Your Right to Know
By rule of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as of January 1, 2006, food manufacturers are required to list the amount of trans fat on nutrition labels. The FDA rule states that the amount of trans fat in a serving should be listed by weight (in grams) on a separate line under saturated fat.

However, according to the FDA, food manufacturers are allowed to list the amount of trans fat per serving in a food as zero grams if the actual amount is less than 0.5 gram. That is why you may see a product that has partially hydrogenated vegetable oil listed as an ingredient but has trans fat content listed as zero grams.

Omega-3 oils are the healthiest. They are part of a group of substances called prostaglandins that help keep blood cells from sticking together, increase blood flow, and reduce inflammation. This makes omega-3 oils useful in preventing cardiovascular disease as well as inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis.

Omega-6 oils are healthy, too, but they are not quite as helpful as omega-3's. Omega-6's can help form prostaglandins that are similarly beneficial to the ones produced by omega-3's, but they can also produce harmful prostaglandins. The unfavorable prostaglandins increase blood-cell stickiness and promote cardiovascular disease, and they also appear to be linked to the formation of cancer.

To encourage your body to make beneficial prostaglandins from omega-6 oils, you should decrease the amount of animal fats you eat. Too many animal fats tend to push your body into using omega-6 oils to make the unfavorable prostaglandins rather than the helpful ones.


The research is inconclusive about how much omega-6 you should eat compared to the amount of omega-3. Many researchers suggest consuming one to four times more omega-6's than omega-3's. However, the typical American eats anywhere from 11 to 30 times more omega-6's than omega-3's.

The U.S. Dietary Reference Intakes for essential fatty acids recommends the consumption of omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of 10-to-1. This means consuming ten times more omega-6's than omega-3's. Lucky for us, nature provided that exact ratio of fat in each little olive. The linoleic-to-linolenic ratio is about 10-to-1.

One of the key benefits of the fats in olive oil is that they reduce cholesterol. On the next page you'll learn why that is and how lower cholesterol helps prevent heart problems.

To learn more about the topics covered on this article, check out the links below:
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Heart Benefits From Olive Oil

Research abounds regarding the benefits of monounsaturated fat. Other studies are showing that the potent phytochemicals (those substances in plants that may have health benefits for people) in olive oil -- specifically, a group called phenolic compounds -- appear to promote good health.

Studies have shown that a phytochemical in olive oil called hydroxytyrosol "thins" the blood. Other phytochemicals reduce inflammation of the blood vessels, prevent oxidation of fats in the bloodstream, protect blood vessel walls, and dilate the blood vessels for improved circulation.

Cholesterol Combatant

Olive oil boosts heart health by keeping a lid on cholesterol levels. It lowers total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Some studies show that it does not affect HDL cholesterol; others show that it slightly increases HDL levels.

Much research has demonstrates how olive oil fights cholesterol.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Many studies have demonstrated
that olive oil fights bad cholesterol.

A 2002 article in The American Journal of Medicine reported that total cholesterol levels decrease an average of 13.4 percent and LDL cholesterol levels drop an average of 18 percent when people replace saturated fat with monounsaturated fat in their diets. These results seem to hold for middle-age and older adults who have high blood cholesterol levels.

The polyphenolic compounds (types of phytochemicals) in olive oil appear to play a big part in protecting blood vessels. Three polyphenols, oleuropein, tyrosol, and hydroxytyrosol, are believed to be particularly helpful.

Numerous studies have shown that polyphenols and monounsaturated fat help keep LDL cholesterol from being oxidized and getting stuck to the inner walls of arteries, which forms the plaque that hampers blood flow. When plaque forms in arteries, the risk of heart disease or stroke increases.


Polyphenolic compounds are also responsible for preserving and protecting two enzymes -- glutathione reductase and glutathione peroxidase -- that fight free radicals in the body. Without enzymes like these, free radicals can damage healthy cells, potentially leading to the development of cancer and other serious health problems.

Research reported in the November 2005 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology provides compelling evidence for the advantages of olive oil's polyphenolic compounds. In the study, 21 otherwise-healthy Spanish volunteers who had high blood cholesterol levels were given 2.5 tablespoons of either virgin olive oil that was rich in phenolic compounds or olive oil that had much less of these phytonutrients as part of their breakfast.

Careful measurements for the next four hours showed that those who consumed the phenolic-rich olive oil experienced:

  • An increase in the dilation of the interior walls of blood vessels. The more dilated a vessel is, the freer the circulation and the less work the heart has to do to pump blood through the body.

  • An increase in the amount of nitric oxide in the bloodstream. Nitric oxide is a strong vasodilator (an agent that causes the blood vessels to dilate, or expand). Nitric oxide relaxes the smooth muscles that line artery walls, thus improving circulation. It also inhibits the clumping of blood cells called platelets, reducing the risk of blood clots. Oleuropein is the phytonutrient in olive oil that is responsible for stimulating the production of nitric oxide.
Results such as these suggest that adding a small amount of phenolic-rich olive oil to the diet (or, better yet, substituting olive oil for harmful saturated fats in the diet) can make a significant impact on reducing atherosclerosis and the cascade of events that lead to heart disease.

The researchers identified this finding as especially important because, in other studies, meals high in saturated fat, such as hamburgers and french fries, have been shown to create the opposite effect. Such meals inhibit the normal and healthy function of blood vessels and constrict blood flow.

Taking the two sets of results together, then, further enhances support for the cardiac benefits of using olive oil in place of saturated and trans fats in the diet.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet (one that is high in monounsaturated fat from olive oil and moderate in calories) made headlines when an Italian study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in September 2004. The study followed two groups of 90 people who had metabolic syndrome for two years. During the study, both groups increased their activity levels by 60 percent.

Juice vs. Seeds
Olives are a fruit, and when you press them, you get juice. This juice is rich not only in oil but also in potent phytochemicals and several vitamins. Need another reason to choose olive oil? It's a more natural product than seed oils.

Seeds, such as sunflower, soybean, or rapeseed (the source of canola oil), undergo much more processing to extract their oil. They are not merely crushed or pressed to remove their oil; they are typically processed with heat and sometimes chemicals to gain access to their tiny oil reserves. Even "cold-pressed" seed oils require heat of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, seed oil is more highly processed than what we get from simple olive juice.

One study group was given detailed instructions about how to increase the whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and olive oil in their diets. The other 90 subjects consumed a "control" diet (50 percent to 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 15 percent to 20 percent of calories from protein, and less than 30 percent of calories from fat). After two years, those on the Mediterranean diet showed improvement in cholesterol levels, significantly less C-reactive protein in their blood, less insulin resistance, more weight loss, and improvements in the condition of their blood-vessel walls.

A follow-up study two years later revealed only 40 of the original 90 people on the Mediterranean diet still had metabolic syndrome, compared with 78 people in the control group.

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increases the risk of coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes. In general, if a person has three or more of the conditions listed below, he or she likely has metabolic syndrome (which is sometimes called insulin-resistance syndrome).

  • Excess weight, especially in the abdominal area

  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels

  • High blood pressure

  • Insulin resistance (the body doesn't respond to insulin appropriately)

  • "Thick" blood that is prone to clumping and clotting (as indicated by high levels of a substance called plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 in the blood)

  • Inflamed blood vessels (as indicated by high levels in the blood of a compound named C-reactive protein)
More Heartfelt Evidence

A French study published in the International Journal of
Obesity-Related Metabolic Disorders in June 2003 added to the evidence in favor of olive oil as a heart helper. Thirty-two people ate either a high-carbohydrate diet or one that was high in monounsaturated fat.

After eight weeks, the people who consumed lots of monounsaturated fats had better triglyceride levels than those participants who were on the diet high in carbohydrates. Those who ate more monounsaturated fat also had less oxidative stress, a condition in which there are more free radicals than the body can handle and/or low levels of antioxidants. This condition puts the arteries at risk of damage and encourages heart disease (among other unhealthy effects).

The diet rich in monounsaturated fat also appeared to protect against smooth-muscle-cell proliferation, another risk factor for atherosclerosis.

Olive Oil -- A Boon to Blood Pressure

An Italian study published in the December 2003 issue of the Journal of Hypertension reviewed numerous research projects that looked at various factors that affect blood pressure. The review indicated that unsaturated fat reduced blood pressure. The researchers went on to say that olive oil in particular was uniquely able to reduce high blood pressure -- much more than sunflower oil.


A large study that appeared a year later in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the diets of more than 20,000 Greeks who did not have high blood pressure when the study began.

The study found that those who ate the typical Mediterranean diet had lower blood pressure. Further, when the effects of olive oil consumption were compared to those of vegetable oil consumption, olive oil was shown to have a more positive impact on blood pressure.


Spain is another country where olive oil is a staple in many households. People there typically use olive oil, sunflower oil (a mostly polyunsaturated oil), or a mixture of the two. Researchers in one Spanish study wanted to learn the role each of these oils played in blood pressure, as well as how the oils held up to cultural cooking methods in which oil is heated to a high temperature for frying and later reused several times.

Because it helps your health in so many ways, olive oil should be in everyone's kitchen.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Because it helps your health in so many ways,
olive oil should be a part of everyone's kitchen.

The study, which was published in the December 2003 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined samples of cooking oil from the kitchens of 538 study participants. Researchers measured the blood pressure and conducted blood tests on those participants and nearly 500 more "control" subjects. Here's what they found:
  • Olive oil was resistant to heat degradation.

  • Mixed oil and sunflower oil degraded more than olive oil alone when heated and reused.

  • Those who used sunflower oil, whether or not it had deteriorated, had higher blood pressure levels than those who used olive oil.

  • The higher the monounsaturated fat consumption, the lower the blood pressure tended to be.
At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that because olive oil does a better job of maintaining its healthful properties and because it positively influences blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels, it should be the oil of choice in everyone's kitchen.

Elsewhere in the body, olive oil helps control inflammation, which causes arthritis, asthma, and other adverse conditions. Find out how on the next page.

To learn more about the topics covered on this article, check out the links below:
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Inflammation Benefits From Olive Oil

Inflammation within the body may occur in response to cigarette smoking or eating large amounts of saturated fat and trans fat. In overweight or obese people, excess fat from fat cells can float through the bloodstream and cause inflammation. Although inflammation can help the body, it can also hurt.

Certain dietary fats cause more of an inflammatory response than others. Trans fat and the saturated fat in animal foods stimulate inflammation. To a smaller extent, polyunsaturated fat in foods such as safflower oil, sunflower oil, and corn oil trigger inflammation, as well.

Again, this is where olive oil helps. Olive oil's phytonutrients -- in this case phenolic compounds called squalene, beta-sitosterol, and tyrosol -- don't cause the inflammation that other fats do.


What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the immune system's first line of defense against injury and infection. When an injury occurs, such as a simple cut on the finger, a set of events takes place within your body that forms a blood clot, fights infection, and begins the healing process.

Chronic inflammation can damage internal organs.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Chronic inflammation can damage internal organs.

Inflammation is painful because blood vessels dilate upstream of the injury to bring more blood and nutrients to the injured area, but they constrict at the injury site. These actions result in fluids from the bloodstream pooling in tissue around the injury, which causes swelling and pressure that stimulate nerves and cause pain.

In some individuals, the immune system gets confused and begins to view some of the body's own healthy cells as "foreign invaders." It therefore directs an immune response -- complete with inflammation -- at healthy tissues, harming or even destroying them.

This misdirected attack results in what's called an autoimmune disorder ("auto" meaning self). Rheumatoid arthritis and certain types of thyroid disease are autoimmune disorders. Asthma, too, is the result of inflammation gone awry.


When inflammation continues unabated for long periods of time, damage can occur in organs, such as the colon, or in blood vessels. Indeed, chronic inflammation within the body is looking more and more like a serious contributor to cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease. Inflammation may damage the inner lining of blood vessels, which encourages plaque deposits to form.

Inflammation may also cause plaque in arteries to break off and travel downstream, where it can become lodged and stop blood flow to a crucial artery that provides oxygen to important body parts, such as your heart or brain. When this happens, a heart attack or stroke (respectively) can occur.


Chronic inflammation within the body can wreak havoc on other body parts besides arteries. A team led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions found that chronic inflammation of the colon might increase the risk of colon cancer.

A ten-year study of more than 20,000 patients suggested a link between chronic inflammation and this disease, although a direct cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been established. These preliminary findings were discussed in the February 2004 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Scientists have discovered that inflammation can be reduced with low daily doses of aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which in turn appear to reduce the risk of diseases caused by inflammation.

Fortunately, not only does olive oil not prompt the kind of inflammation other types of fat can, it actually has some ability to reduce inflammation, thanks to those helpful phytochemicals (squalene, beta-sitosterol, and tyrosol). So consuming olive oil on a regular basis may help decrease the risk of conditions linked to inflammation.


Yet another condition that appears to be linked to inflammation is type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes that affects an estimated 20 million Americans. Having excess body fat seems to increase inflammation. As inflammation increases, so does insulin resistance. As insulin resistance increases, blood glucose levels rise and the risk of type 2 diabetes skyrockets.

What Is Oleocanthal and How Can It Help You?

An article published by Philadelphia researchers in the September 2005 issue of Nature identified a compound in olive oil called oleocanthal that has anti-inflammatory action. Their studies revealed that this compound can act like ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory medications.


Olive oils differ widely in the amount of oleocanthal they possess. To get an idea of how oleocanthal-rich your olive oil of choice is, researchers suggest taking a sip of the oil to "see how strongly it stings the back of the throat." The stronger the sting, the more oleocanthal the oil contains. Fifty grams (nearly a quarter of a cup of olive oil) provides the same amount of anti-inflammatory action as 10 percent of the standard adult dose of ibuprofen.

Obviously, eating enough olive oil to equal a whole dose of ibuprofen is not a practical way to decrease your inflammation and pain. But consuming a moderate amount of olive oil daily -- in place of most of the other fat you typically consume -- over the long term may lessen chronic inflammation throughout the body and bloodstream. It might even somewhat diminish asthma and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Future research will probably tell us more about olive oil's function in battling oxidation, inflammation, and all the multiple diseases and health conditions associated with them.

Olive oil combats many diseases associated with inflammation, but an unrelated one is one of the biggest. The next page explains why some believe olive oil can help prevent cancer.

To learn more about the topics covered on this article, check out the links below:
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Cancer Benefits From Olive Oil

Many medical researchers believe cancers of the colon, prostate, and breast are linked to dietary fat intake. Typically, high-fat diets were blamed, but research is beginning to suggest the more important factor may be the type of fat in the diet. In Spain, Italy, and Greece, where olive oil is used in most households, cancer incidence is much lower than in northern Europe and the United States, where olive oil use isn't as widespread.

There is reason to believe that olive oil can help prevent breast cancer.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
There is reason to believe that olive oil
can help prevent breast cancer.

There is plenty of controversy regarding whether olive oil can play any part in helping to prevent breast cancer, but women who follow a Mediterranean-style diet appear to have a lower risk of the disease.

A study published in the March 2005 issue of the Annals of Oncology showed that oleic acid, the principal monounsaturated fat in olive oil, dramatically decreased the growth of aggressive forms of breast tumors in test tubes. When oleic acid was combined with the commonly used breast cancer drug Herceptin, the effectiveness of the drug was vastly improved.

A review of studies conducted between 1990 and 2003 that was presented in the July 2005 issue of the World Journal of Surgical Oncology noted a direct association between saturated fat intake and breast cancer incidence.

The more saturated fat consumed, the higher the incidence of breast cancer. In addition, the researchers reported an inverse relationship between the disease and oleic acid: The more oleic acid a woman ate, the lower her risk of breast cancer.

On the other hand, a different meta-analysis, published in the September 2004 International Journal of Cancer, analyzed ten studies that involved more than 2,000 cases of breast cancer. It found opposite results -- the more oleic acid consumed, the higher the rate of breast cancer.

Clearly, more studies are needed to determine olive oil's real relationship to breast cancer. In the meantime, moderation may be the key to reaping the benefits of olive oil without increasing risk.

Research also suggests that olive oil is effective against diabetes. The next page explains the benefits of switching to olive oil instead of switching to a low-carbohydrate diet.

To learn more about the topics covered on this article, check out the links below:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Diabetes Benefits From Olive Oil

People living with diabetes have to work hard to keep their blood sugar, also called blood glucose, levels under control. One way to do so is to eat a diet that is fairly low in carbohydrates. Because people with diabetes are also at an elevated risk of developing heart disease, they are advised to limit their intake of dietary fat.

People with diabetes must keep constant watch of their blood sugar level.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
People with diabetes must keep constant watch on their blood sugar level.

Lately, researchers and nutritionists have been debating the best type of eating pattern for people with diabetes. Some research indicates that a diet high in monounsaturated fat may be better than a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet.

Marvelous Polyphenols
Polyphenols are advantageous not only to human health but also to the health of the olive. Phenolic compounds protect the olive, prevent oxidation of its oil, and allow it to stay in good condition longer. In addition, they increase the shelf life of olive oil and contribute to its tart flavor.

Numerous studies have suggested that people with diabetes who consume a diet high in monounsaturated fat have the same level of control over blood sugar levels as those who eat a low-fat diabetic diet. But monounsaturated fat also helps keep triglyceride levels in check, reduce LDL cholesterol levels, and increase HDL cholesterol levels.

Researchers in Spain published an article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in September 2003 that concluded calorie-controlled diabetic diets high in monounsaturated fat do not cause weight gain and are more pleasing to eat than low-fat diets. The researchers determined that a diet high in monounsaturated fat is a good idea for people with diabetes.

Research is still inconsistent as to whether monounsaturated fat actually plays a role in stabilizing blood glucose levels, but evidence is leaning in that direction. A review of a number of studies, which was done by German researchers and appeared in the official journal of the German Diabetes Association, found that blood glucose levels were lower in people who ate a diet rich in monounsaturated fat than in people who ate a low-fat diet.

Further, they said increasing monounsaturated-fat intake lowered LDL cholesterol levels in some, though not all, subjects.

People trying to control their weight can benefit from olive oil, too. Find out how on the next page.

To learn more about the topics covered on this article, check out the links below:
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Weight-Loss Benefits From Olive Oil

Medical professionals are greatly concerned about the obesity problem in the United States. Obesity often comes hand-in-hand with high levels of cholesterol and lipids in the blood (hyperlipidemia), heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancers, and a higher rate of premature death.

Health-care professionals often recommend following a strict but healthy diet in order to lose weight. But there may be some good news for those overweight folks who struggle to limit dietary fat.

Simply switching to olive oil will trim down your waistline a bit.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Simply switching to olive oil will trim down your waistline a bit.

Research suggests that replacing other types of fats with monounsaturated fat, especially olive oil, helps people lose a moderate amount of weight without additional food restriction or physical activity. So just imagine what adding a lower-calorie diet and increased physical activity (which is always a good idea) to the consumption of monounsaturated fats like olive oil could do for your weight-loss efforts.

FDA scientists reviewed many different studies when they evaluated whether to allow health claims for monounsaturated fat on food labels in 2003. The researchers wanted to ensure that a proposed recommendation to eat 13.5 grams (one tablespoon) of olive oil per day wouldn't contribute to weight gain in the American population.

A number of studies showed that when people substituted monounsaturated-fat-rich olive oil for saturated fat, they either maintained their weight or lost weight. A diet high in monounsaturated fat and low in carbohydrates actually resulted in more weight loss than a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.

What's more, the FDA determined that eating 13.5 grams of monounsaturated fat in a dietary pattern low in saturated fat and cholesterol would reduce total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 5 percent, resulting in a 10 percent decrease in coronary heart disease.

However, the FDA did not approve this particular claim for food labels. Instead, the agency approved a stronger claim linking the consumption of 23 grams (about two tablespoons) of olive oil to a decreased risk of coronary heart disease.

Another study showed that when people ate monounsaturated fat, they ate less. For example, when served bread with olive oil, participants ate 23 percent less bread than when they ate it with butter, a saturated fat.

Scientists speculate that because monounsaturated fat is more satisfying than other types of fat, people eat less of it. Additionally, the body's metabolism of monounsaturated fat after a meal appears to be different from the metabolism of saturated fat. This difference in metabolism may be what causes slight weight loss. (Researchers haven't yet determined exactly how this works.)

Several other studies indicate that monounsaturated fat may even enhance the body's breakdown of stored fat. A study of rats that was published in the British Journal of Nutrition in December 2003 found that monounsaturated fat facilitated the release of fat from rats' fat cells. Also, insulin became less able to prevent the breakdown of fat, which made it easier for fat cells to release their stored fat for elimination by the body.

Thus, an increase in monounsaturated fat in the diet (along with, presumably, an equivalent decrease in saturated-fat intake) may help with weight loss; results were opposite in the rats that were given polyunsaturated fat.

A pair of studies that were published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004 looked at whether a diet high in monounsaturated fat was more effective for weight loss than a diet that was low in total fat. The studies also examined the effects of a Mediterranean diet on blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

The two studies tracked a total of 255 participants (155 in one study, 100 in the other) for 15 months. Researchers concluded that a Mediterranean diet was very effective for weight loss in the short term (3 months) and 15 months later.

Participants who completed the study's initial three-month program had better weight-loss results and regained less weight after 15 months than those who did not complete the program. These results were comparable to or even better than the typical results found in studies of common weight-loss programs and combination diet/drug therapy.

The study also found that a Mediterranean diet had favorable effects on HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels at three months and a neutral effect on total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. (A neutral effect means there were no significant changes in these measurements.) In the study with 155 patients, HDL levels increased by 9.6 percent and triglyceride levels decreased by 31.6 percent.

In a small Australian study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in September 2003, eight men were given all their food and beverages for four weeks. Their meals and snacks were either high in saturated fat or high in monounsaturated fat. Later, the men switched diets. There were no significant differences in the amount of calories consumed or the amount of physical activity the men did.

Yet the results showed that when the men substituted monounsaturated fat for saturated fat, they lost weight and body fat.

Oh, Those Powerful Olives

Not all olives are created equal. Just as some varieties of apples are sweeter or more tart than others, different varieties of olives yield varying amounts of oil. Large black olives typically purchased in a can from the grocer's shelf may contain as little as 7 percent oil. These are table olives. At the other end of the spectrum, some olives contain up to 35 percent oil. These are the ones used for pressing.

No matter where the oil comes from, increasing the amount of olive oil in your diet is a great way to eat your way to good health. Whether you are trying to lose weight or ward of harmful diseases, olive oil can be a simple remedy you can try.

To learn more about the topics covered on this article, check out the links below:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gayle Povis Alleman is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in traditional nutrition from Western Washington University and a master's degree in alternative nutrition from Bastyr University. This varied background allows her to bring together the best of both approaches to offer research-based, holistic information about wholesome foods, nutrition, and health. As a writer, educator, and speaker, she encourages people to achieve optimum health through food, nutrients, and physical activity.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.