1. Heart Health
The main type of fat contained in olive oil is monounsaturated fat (MUFA). MUFAs have been credited for lowering the total cholesterol and LDL (the bad) cholesterol levels, and it can also contribute against blood clotting.
The monounsaturated fats contained in olive oil are also rich in high amounts of a fatty acid (EFA) called omega-3. Omega-3 and MUFAs help to maintain the heart’s health by keeping the blood pressure at low levels.
Olive oil also seems to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension), which is one of the most important factors leading to heart diseases. A study published in 2000 has shown that the regular consumption of olive oil can reduce the need for prescribed hypertension drugs by up to 48%.
2. Antioxidising properties
Antioxidants are substances that help prevent damage to our body’s cells caused by hazardous oxygen molecules known as ‘free radicals’. Olive oil contains some powerful antioxidants, which means it might be helpful against some of these serious conditions.
According to a research published in Nutrition Research Reviews, two chemical compounds (hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein), which give extra virgin olive oil its bitter taste, have exhibited powerful antioxidant activity.
Vitamin E in olive oil also has proven and distinctive antioxidant activities, as does vitamin K.
3. Brain Health
Initial studies have shown that a specific olive oil extract, named ‘oleocanthal’, may help protect you from the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline usually come with aging.
In people suffering by Alzheimer’s, there is a buildup of proteins (beta amyloids) in certain parts of the brain. There is evidence that extra virgin olive oil clears these beta amyloid proteins from the brains of mice, thus helping to prevent Alzheimer’s.
Moreover, in humans, a Mediterranean diet including olive oil has been shown to promote cognitive function.
4. Anti-Inflammatory Effect
Chronic inflammation is linked to many of today’s most prevalent and serious medical conditions such as asthma, allergies, heart diseases and cancer.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, extra virgin olive oil is an essential part of a healthy meal. One of the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil, namely ‘oleic acid’, plays an important role as studies show that it can reduce the level of inflammation.
Given that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory condition and fact that olive oil seems to have anti-inflammatory properties, it’s reasonable to conclude that olive oil can relieve the pain and swelling associated with RA.
5. Anti-Cancer effect
The incidence of cancer in Mediterranean countries is lower than in other countries, prompting researchers to the question of whether diet plays a role in this fact. Olive oil contains antioxidants, which are believed to play a pivotal role in killing cancer cells.
4,000 women, between the ages of 60 and 80, were asked to follow either a Mediterranean diet including olive oil, or a control diet for six years.
Those following the Mediterranean diet had a 68% lower relative risk of developing breast cancer within the following 5 years compared to those in the other group.
6. Type-2 Diabetes prevention
Olive oil, like certain other fats, can have a stabilising effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, meaning it could help you stave off this hard-to-manage condition.
In a trial of 418 non-diabetic subjects, those following a Mediterranean diet entailing olive oil had more than 40% lower risk of developing diabetes than those in the control group.
A more recent study conducted in 2015 backs up these findings. 25 participants were given a typical Mediterranean lunch, consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains and fish, in two distinct occasions. In the first meal, the researchers added 10g of extra virgin olive oil and in the second one they added 10g of corn oil. Afterwards, the participants’ blood glucose level was tested. The results showed that olive oil led to a much smaller increase in glucose levels compared to corn oil.
7. Olive oil for a Healthy Diet and Weight Control
The consumption of fat doesn’t make you fat, but eating too many calories, it does. An average Greek person consumes 20 liters a year, compared to just 2 liters per person in other countries.
Despite consuming a lot of olive oil, a 2-year study of over 1,100 elderly people indicated that those who follow a Mediterranean diet have an 88% lower risk of obesity. This is most likely thanks to a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, and grains, but it does lead to the conclusion that moderate amounts of healthy fats don’t make you fat.