Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

Vegetables’ health benefits increase when cooked with extra virgin olive oil

Adapted from an article from the University of Barcelona, June 13, 2019 

Cooking the vegetables in sofrito (the traditional Spanish sauté of garlic, onion, and tomato) with extra virgin olive oil increases the absorption and release of the bioactive compounds in the vegetables, according to a study conducted by a research team from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences at the University of Barcelona (UB), from the Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition Networking Biomedical Research Centre (CIBERobn), and the Diabetes and Associated Metabolic Diseases Networking Biomedical Research (CIBERDEM), led by Rosa M. Lamuela-Raventós. These results, published in the scientific journal Molecules, allow for insight into the mechanisms by which gastronomy could play a relevant role in the health-improving effects of the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet, which involves a high consumption of phytochemicals from vegetables, fruits, and legumes, has been correlated to health-improving effects in cardiovascular and metabolic health. This correlation has largely been established by findings from the extensive PREDIMED study, a multicenter clinical trial carried out from 2003 to 2011 with more than 7,000 participants.

However, the healthful effects of the Mediterranean diet have been challenging to reproduce in non- Mediterranean populations—possibly, according to the researchers, because of differences in cooking techniques. With this study, researchers have attempted to assess whether the Mediterranean gastronomy imputes its health benefits not only via its food components but also via the way those foods are cooked.

The objective of the study was to assess the effect of the extra virgin olive oil on bioactive compounds in tomato, onion, and garlic—the traditional ingredients in sofrito, one of the key cooking techniques in the Mediterranean diet. According to the researchers, this sauce has forty different phenolic compounds and a high amount of carotenoids, and its consumption is associated with an improvement of the cardiovascular risk parameters and insulin sensitivity.

“The main result of the study is that cooking vegetables with extra virgin olive oil [allows] the bioactive compounds, such as carotenoids and polyphenols, that are present in vegetables we find in sofrito to move to the olive oil, which enables the absorption and bioactivity of these compounds,” says Lamuela -Raventós, director of the Institute for Research on Nutrition and Food Safety (INSA-UB).

The study also identified a new property of olive oil. Previous researchers had noted that the combination of olive oil and onion produces isomers of certain carotenoids. These isomers are more bioavailable and have a higher antioxidant content. This study found that olive oil facilitates this process not only with carotenoids but also with polyphenols, which are transferred from the vegetables to the oil.

These results could explain earlier findings by this research group that the presence of olive oil increases the anti-inflammatory effects of sofrito. “We saw that this increase can occur due to the migration of bioactive compounds (carotenoids and polyphenols) from the tomato, onion, and garlic to the oil during the cooking process, which [improves] the absorption of these compounds,” concludes José Fernando Rinaldi de Alvarenga, INSA-UB member and lead author of the paper.

Reference: de Alvarenga JF et al. Using extra virgin olive oil to cook vegetables enhances polyphenol and carotenoid extractability: a study applying the sofrito technique. Molecules. 2019;24(8): DOI: 10.3390/molecules24081555.

Diet including olive oil may reduce blood-clotting risk in healthy obese adults

Adapted from an article by the American Heart Association, March, 7, 2019

In a group of healthy obese adults, eating olive oil at least once a week was associated with less platelet activity in the blood, which may reduce the tendency of blood to clot and block blood flow. These findings are according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2019, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in population-based cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.

Platelets are blood cell fragments that stick together and form clumps and clots when they are activated. They contribute to the buildup of artery-clogging plaque, known as atherosclerosis, the condition that underlies most heart attacks and strokes, according to lead study author Sean P. Heffron, MD, MS, MSc, assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine and the NYU Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in New York, New York.

Using food frequency surveys, researchers determined how often 63 obese, nonsmoking, nondiabetic study participants ate olive oil. The participants’ average age was 32.2 years and their average body mass index (BMI) was 44.1. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI)—a ratio of body weight to height—over 30.

Researchers found that those who ate olive oil at least once a week had lower platelet activation than participants who ate olive oil less often, and that the lowest levels of platelet aggregation were observed among those who ate olive oil more frequently.

“People who are obese are at increased risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular event, even if they don’t have diabetes or other obesity-associated conditions. Our study suggests that choosing to eat olive oil may have the potential to help modify that risk, potentially lowering an obese person’s threat of having a heart attack or stroke,” Heffron said. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to assess the effects of dietary composition, olive oil specifically, on platelet function in obese patients,” said co-author Ruina Zhang, BS, an NYU medical student.

Some limitations of the study are that it relied on questionnaires completed by the participants; it measured how often they ate olive oil, but not how much olive oil they ate; and because it was observational, the study could not prove that eating olive oil will reduce platelet activation in obese adults.

Researchers Explore What’s Behind Mediterranean Diet and Lower Cardiovascular Risk

Brigham and Women’s Hospital, December 7, 2018 

A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health offers insights from a cohort study of women in the US who reported consuming a Mediterranean-type diet.

Researchers found a 25 percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease among study participants who consumed a diet rich in plants and olive oil and low in meats and sweets. The team also explored why and how a Mediterranean diet might mitigate risk of heart disease and stroke by examining a panel of 40 biomarkers, representing new and established biological contributors to heart disease. The team’s results are published in JAMA Network Open.

“Our study has a strong public health message that modest changes in known cardiovascular disease risk factors, particularly those relating to inflammation, glucose metabolism, and insulin resistance, contribute to the long-term benefit of a Mediterranean diet on cardiovascular disease risk,” said lead author Shafqat Ahmad, PhD, a research fellow at the Brigham and at the Harvard Chan School.

The current research draws on data from more than 25,000 female health professionals who participated in the Women’s Health Study. Participants completed food intake questionnaires about diet, provided blood samples for measuring the biomarkers, and were followed for up to 12 years. The primary outcomes analyzed in the study were incidences of cardiovascular disease, defined as first events of heart attack, stroke, coronary arterial revascularization, and cardiovascular death.

The team categorized study participants as having a low, middle, or upper Mediterranean diet intake. They found that 428 (4.2 percent) of the women in the low group experienced a cardiovascular event, compared to 356 (3.8 percent) in the middle group, and 246 (3.8 percent) in the upper group, representing a relative risk reduction of 23 percent and 28 percent, respectively, a benefit that is similar in magnitude to statins or other preventive medications.

The team saw changes in signals of inflammation (accounting for 29 percent of the cardiovascular disease risk reduction), glucose metabolism and insulin resistance (27.9 percent), and body mass index (27.3 percent).

“While prior studies have shown benefit for the Mediterranean diet on reducing cardiovascular events and improving cardiovascular risk factors, it has been a ‘black box,’ regarding the extent to which improvements in known and novel risk factors contribute to these effects,” said corresponding author Samia Mora, MD, MHS, a cardiovascular medicine specialist at the Brigham and Harvard Medical School. “In this large study, we found that modest differences in biomarkers contributed in a multifactorial way to this cardiovascular benefit that was seen over the long term.”

Reference: Ahmad S, Moorthy MV, Demler OV, et al. Assessment of risk factors and biomarkers associated with risk of cardiovascular disease among women consuming a Mediterranean diet. JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1(8):e185708.

5 Health Benefits of Using Olive Oil

Reprinted from HealthNewsDigest.com

Anytime is a good time to consider heart health. After all, cardiovascular disease disease is the leading cause of death in America, killing over 600,000 people yea yearly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even making small changes in your lifestyle and diet can add up to big results over time. One such change that can give people a healthy benefit for the heart and beyond is to make the switch to olive oil.

“Olive oil not only tastes great, but increasingly we are learning about the healthy benefits it has for our bodies,” explains Chef Paul Anthony Fario, known as “Chefario,” the executive chef at Arlington-based Extra Virgin restaurant. “And it is quite versatile, making it easy to find ways to incorporate it into your diet.”

Here are 5 health benefits of using olive oil:

Anti-inflammation. Along with having healthy properties that help reduce inflammation in the body, it also has anti-clotting properties. This helps to make olive oil a choice that is better for the heart.

Antioxidants. Many health professionals have deemed olive oil to be heart-healthy because it contains powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. The polyphenols slow the progression of atherosclerosis.

DHPEA-EDA. This is one of the most important polyphenols found in olive oil, and researchers have found that it protects red blood cells from damage.

Monounsaturated fatty acids. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which help to control a person’s LDL — or bad — cholesterol, while they also help to raise the body’s good, heart-healthy cholesterol.

Secoiridoids. This category of polyphenols found in olive oil is being researched for its anti-cancer properties. It is believed to provide the digestive tract with some protection.

Additional research suggests that olive oil has beneficial properties for bone health, cognitive function, and anti-cancer benefits. More research is being conducted to discover additional ways that olive oil can be beneficial to our health.

“Adding olive oil to your diet can be simple and tasty,” adds Chef Fario. “For the best results, buy a good-quality extra virgin olive oil and store it in a cool dark place so that it doesn’t go rancid or isn’t subjected to a lot of light exposure.”

New study reports that olive oil may lower mortality by a quarter and heart disease by nearly one-half

Followers of the popular Mediterranean diet have known for years that eating fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and plenty of extra virgin olive oil is beneficial to health.

Recent studies have continued to bolster this eating pattern, with much less emphasis on overcooked meats, hydrogenated fats, and fried foods. They may not realize that many of the benefits come from the monounsaturated fats provided by the liberal use of fresh-pressed olive oil.

Reporting in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Spain found that the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil work synergistically with essential fatty acids such as the omega-3 fat, DHA, to enhance their incorporation into cell membranes. The scientists found an association between greater olive oil intake and a lower risk of dying over an average of 13.4 years of follow-up.

The researchers analyzed data garnered from dietary questionnaires provided from a cohort of 40,622 men and women residing in Spain, aged 29 to 69 years, who were recruited from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. The questions specifically detailed caloric intake and consumption of olive oil in their diet. During the follow-up period, there were 416 deaths from cardiovascular disease, 956 cancer deaths, and 417 deaths from other causes.

Olive oil shields against inflammation and prevents blood sugar spikes to thwart chronic disease

Study participants whose olive oil intake ranked in the top quarter had a 26 percent lower risk of dying of any cause and a 44 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who did not consume olive oil. The risk of mortality from causes other than cancer or heart disease was reduced by 38 percent for those whose olive oil intake was greatest.

The authors noted that there is evidence that olive oil may be protective against specific types of cancer, particularly breast cancer.

The scientists conducting the study determined that protective monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and phenolic compounds in olive oil provide a synergistic effect to shield against heart disease. In prior research, olive oil has been shown to improve systemic inflammation and glycemic control in randomized clinical trials.

The authors concluded, “To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study to show that olive oil consumption reduces the risk of mortality… Our findings provide further evidence on the effects that one of the key components of the Mediterranean diet has on mortality and support the need to preserve the habitual use of olive oil within this healthy dietary pattern.” Nutrition experts recommend adding one to two tablespoons of fresh-pressed extra virgin olive oil (post-cooking to prevent degradation of the oil) to your meals each day to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sources: NaturalNews.com, based on a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Reprinted from NaturalNews.com, July 24, 2012

Extra virgin olive oil curbs inflammation in nearly 100 different ways, study reports

Reprinted from the Health Sciences Institute website, August 22, 2011:

Spanish researchers believe they’ve broken the code—a genetic code, in fact.

And not only does it appear to be the secret to why olive oil is so heart-healthy, it might also be the key reason Mediterranean dieters live long, robust lives.

Twenty subjects with metabolic syndrome consumed meals that included either a high-phenol olive oil or a lowphenol olive oil.

….Phenols contain biologically active compounds that are remarkably high in antioxidants. Olive oil phenols are most highly concentrated in extra virgin olive oil, which is made from cold-pressed olives—no heat or chemicals are used in refining.

Results of the Spanish study showed that the high-phenol extra virgin olive oil repressed the inflammatory activity of nearly 100 genes that play a key role in prompting inflammation.

In the journal BMC Genomics, the authors note that their results provide a likely explanation for the reduced risk of heart disease among those who follow a Mediterranean diet.

Study cited in article: Camargo A, et al. Gene expression changes in mononuclear cells in patients with metabolic syndrome after acute intake of phenol-rich virgin olive oil. BMC Genomics. 2010;11:253.

“Hugely Important” New Study Hails Olive Oil and Mediterranean Diet

 The following article by Andrea Petersen is reprinted from The Wall Street Journal,  February 26, 2013.

Olive Oil Diet Curbs Strokes

A diet common in coastal areas of Southern Europe, particularly one with lots of olive oil and nuts, cuts the risk of stroke and other major cardiovascular problems by 30 percent among high-risk people, according to a new study.

There’s a large body of research linking a Mediterranean diet—one heavy on fruits, vegetables, fish and beans—to heart health. But this study, published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is significant both for its size—it followed 7,447 people in Spain over almost 5 years—and its scientific rigor. Few previous studies have succeeded in proving a direct link between a diet and a reduction in life-threatening events like strokes, instead assessing the diet’s impact only on weight loss or certain cardiovascular risk factors, like blood pressure or cholesterol.

“I’m going to change my own diet; add some more olive oil, some more nuts.”
—Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic

The study is “hugely important,” says Steven Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved in the study. Dr. Nissen notes that the preventive effect of the diet is similar to the effect of taking statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs, which research has shown to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events by about 25 percent to 30 percent. “What we can say to patients is this very palatable Mediterranean diet looks to be healthiest. I’m going to change my own diet; add some more olive oil, some more nuts.” ….

The benefit demonstrated by the Mediterranean diet was so striking, the study was stopped early. Clinical trials are sometimes halted early to allow all participants to switch to a clearly beneficial treatment.

Study Concludes: Extra Virgin Olive Oil May Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease

 The following article is reprinted from the website Science2.0. The original research was published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, Feburary 15, 2013

Consumption of extra virgin olive oil has been linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and its benefit may lie in one component of olive oil that helps shuttle the abnormal AD proteins out of the brain.

Alzheimer’s disease affects about 30 million people worldwide but the prevalence is lower in Mediterranean countries—thus the correlation with olive oil. Scientists once attributed it to the high concentration of healthful monounsaturated fats in olive oil, which is consumed in large amounts in the Mediterranean diet.

Recent research also suggested that the actual protective agent might be a substance called oleocanthal, which has effects that protect nerve cells from the kind of damage that occurs in AD. [The University of Louisiana research] team sought evidence on whether oleocanthal helps decrease the accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ) in the brain, believed to be the culprit in AD.

In their paper, Amal Kaddoumi and colleagues describe tracking the effects of oleocanthal in the brains and cultured brain cells of laboratory mice used as stand-ins for humans in such research. In both instances, oleocanthal showed a consistent pattern in which it boosted production of two proteins and key enzymes believed to be critical in removing Aβ from the brain.

“Extra-virgin olive oil-derived oleocanthal associated with the consumption of Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of AD or related neurodegenerative dementias,” the report concludes.

Dr. Oz: Olive Oil Just Got Better

 The following article by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen is excerpted from the Washington Examiner,  December 28, 2012

Olive Oyl may have been Popeye’s one and only, but we doubt he could have loved her any more than we adore olive oil—another of the odd omega monounsaturated fats. This one is mainly omega-9, and it’s the secret sauce in the tasty and good-for-you Mediterranean diet. And now, a bushel of recently revealed benefits makes us want to exclaim: “Olive ya’ forever!”

It’s great for your bones. In one brand-new report, guys who ate lots of fruit and veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products along with olive oil had higher levels of osteocalcin—a protein that keeps bones and teeth strong—compared with guys on a low-fat diet who didn’t use olive oil.

Protects you from silent strokes. Symptom-free mini-strokes can lead to dementia—and bigger, more disabling brain attacks. Olive oil to the rescue: In one report, brain scans showed enjoying this good stuff (drizzled on salad greens, used to sauté chicken and broccoli) lowered the odds for silent strokes by more than 35 percent.

Way less risk of heart disease. Enjoying two tablespoons of olive oil a day could lower your odds for deadly heart disease by a whopping 44 percent. Even one tablespoon a day can slash your risk by 28 percent, says another new report.

Controls blood-sugar levels. Polyphenols in olive oil help your body process blood sugar more efficiently—and could even help you avoid Type 2 diabetes. If you do have diabetes, regular use of olive oil can make it easier to manage blood glucose levels and possibly reduce the amount of blood-sugar-controlling medication you need to take.

Guards against cancer. Making the big “double O” your go-to oil could protect you against respiratory and digestive-system cancers and reduce a woman’s risk for breast cancer by 38 percent.

What makes olive oil such a health-booster? For starters, 55 percent to 80 percent of the fat in olive oil is oleic acid — an omega-9 fatty acid that lowers bad LDL cholesterol, boosts good HDLs, puts blood sugar on an even keel and helps protect against some cancers. But it’s also rich in the plant chemicals that have the power to turn on beneficial genes.

Study shows that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 30 percent.

 The following article is excerpted from VPR.net (Vermont Public Radio),  Allison Aubrey; posted September 30, 2013

The Mediterranean diet is a pattern of eating that lately has become a darling of medical researchers. It includes vegetables and grains, not so much meat and, of course, generous portions of olive oil.

Mary Flynn, an associate professor of medicine at Brown University, says the evidence that olive oil is good for your heart has never been more clear. “Olive oil is a very healthy food. I consider it more medicine than food.”

She points to a big study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine where researchers in Spain had men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who were at risk of heart disease follow one of three diets. Some ate a low-fat diet, another group ate a Mediterranean diet with nuts. And a third group ate a Mediterranean diet that included almost four tablespoons of extravirgin olive oil per day.

“So, they could compare the three diets: Was it nuts, was it olive oil or was the low-fat diet beneficial?” says Flynn. And what researchers found was that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 30 percent. The nut group, which was consuming olive oil as well, did well, too.

“The fact is, there are a huge range of benefits of real extra-virgin olive oil,” notes Tom Mueller, who has spent the last six years investigating and writing about olive oil. He says olive oil is good for two reasons: It’s mostly unsaturated fat, and extra-virgin oil, which is the highestgrade and least-processed form of olive oil, contains a whole range of other beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols.

But here’s the catch: Unfortunately, it turns out that more than half of the extra-virgin olive oil imported into the U.S. has been shown to be substandard. “The fact is, it’s quite often just very low-grade oil that doesn’t give you the taste or the health benefits that extra virgin should give you,” Mueller says. In fact, a study from the University of California, Davis, found that 69 percent of imports tested failed to meet a U.S. Department of Agriculture quality standard.

And Mueller says in some cases the oil is just too old. By the time imported olive oil reaches us, it has often been shipped from place to place and sometimes not stored well. Even if it’s not noticeably rancid, many of the heart-healthy compounds have degraded and fizzled. “Extra-virgin olive oil is fresh-squeezed juice—it’s a fruit juice—therefore freshness is a critical question,” he says. Mueller says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration used to police olive oil imports to ensure producers were meeting quality and freshness standards. But those efforts have fallen off.

So, where does that leave those of us who want to get our hands on the healthy stuff? Well, for starters, Mueller says look for brands that carry a harvest date on the bottle….

Oils with the highest levels of heart-healthy compounds tend to be pungent and peppery. Mueller says if the oil stings the back of your throat a little, that tells you the beneficial polyphenols really are there. “Once you have that taste, you get used to the bitterness and pungency, you never go back,” says Mueller. “It’s a completely different experience.” And a healthy one, too.