Health Benefits of Olive Oil

by Sharon Hopkins

Olive oil is extracted from the olive tree. Olive trees are found in the Mediterranean region and are an important part of the local culture in the region. Olive oil consumption is now nearly global, whereas production still remains largely confined to and around the Mediterranean Sea. Olive oil has been touted as a healthy cooking and garnishing oil compared to other oils that are used in our diet. Research findings suggest that olive oil is associated with a reduced risk of some diseases.

Olive oil is available in various grades based on the quality and method of production. The most highly rated grade is the Extra Virgin grade which is oil that has been extracted from the best plants and is not at all treated chemically. It can be extremely tasty and is popularly used in salads. Pure olive oil is a grade that contains some virgin oil mixed in with refined olive oil. Refined olive oil is the oil produced from inferior quality plants. This oil has to be refined in order to make it palatable and useable in cooking.

From a health point of view, repeated studies have shown that monounsaturated fats are better for health than saturated fats. Olive oil is hugely rich in monounsaturated fats. Consumption of this type of fat has been linked to reduced heart disease. This finding is based on replacing the normal oil consumption with olive oil consumption rather than adding olive oil to one’s diet without replacing other less healthy oils. There is data to show that olive oil is linked with reduced blood pressure and better cholesterol management. Olive oil helps with the elasticity of arterial walls. This reduces stress on the arteries over a long term period of olive oil consumption. These studies are supported by the evidence which shows that, in countries around the Mediterranean, heart disease and stroke rates are low. Countries that directly border the Mediterranean Sea have a high rate of olive oil consumption.

Some studies link the positive effects of olive oil to its antioxidant content rather than the difference in saturated and unsaturated fats. Tests have shown an increase in arterial elasticity amongst people consuming oil that is rich in antioxidants, that is the extra virgin variety of olive oil. Olive oil also lowers blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels as studied on various subjects who have changed their oil consumption from normal cooking oils to olive oil.

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