Adapted from an article by Colin Poitras, September 21, 2022
Leading experts involved in research and education related to the olive tree and its products gathered in Rome recently to discuss the positive health benefits of olive oil during the Fourth Annual Yale Symposium on Olive Oil & Health, September 15–18, 2022.
Organized by Vasilis Vasiliou, PhD, and Tassos C. Kyriakides, PhD, of the Yale School of Public Health, the four-day symposium addressed a variety of themes central to olive cultivation and the future of olive oil as it pertains to human and planetary health.
Laura Di Renzo, of the University of Rome Tor Vergata, focused attention on the role of high-quality extra-virgin olive oils in preventing non-communicable chronic degenerative diseases (NCDDs) and the health benefits of a sustainable Mediterranean diet. NCDDs include obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic respiratory diseases, and many cancers. They have been the most frequent causes of prolonged disability and death worldwide.
Di Renzo highlighted the role of the sustainable Mediterranean diet in the prevention and treatment of NCDDs, including the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).
Attendees praised the symposium for helping to raise awareness of the health benefits of olive oil. Vasiliou and Kyriakides have been leading international advocates for the promotion of olive oil as an important part of a healthy diet.
Kyriakides, an olive oil sommelier, not only constantly tastes oils from all over the world, he consumes copious amounts of olive oil daily in his cooking in addition to his daily morning extra virgin olive oil shot.
It’s a delicious natural and healthfully nutritious food. The olive tree and olive oil have been bringing people together for thousands of years; as public health professionals it is our task to maintain and safeguard the olive tree and its numerous positive effects on human and planetary health. The olive tree can serve as a vehicle in our pursuit for sustainable and planet-friendly agricultural practices.—Tassos C. Kyriakides, PhD, of the Yale School of Public Health
Evidence accumulated over the past six decades shows that olive oil promotes good health, Kyriakides said. A daily intake of 20 grams of olive oil (about two tablespoons) contains a polyphenol (at least 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives) that assists in the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress. The finding has been supported by the European Food Safety Agency. The US Food and Drug Administration also supports a qualified health claim that consumption of oleic acid (the main component of olive oil) may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.