Properties and benefits of extra virgin olive oil
The beneficial effects of consuming olive oil are backed by lengthy, painstaking scientific
research. Fats and oils have a common denominator in the energy value (9 calories per gram)
but the metabolism of each different group differs greatly from the rest. Olive oil contains a
series of compounds that are very beneficial to most functions of the human body and its'
biological and therapeutic value is related in many aspects to its chemical structure.
The first aspect is its triglyceride composition, made up of fatty acids. Olive oil has a
prevalence of monounsaturates, oleic acid principally, while animal fats are fundamentally
made up of saturated fatty acids and seed oils of polyunsaturates. Monounsaturated fatty
acids are much more stable. Olive oil also has a low percentage of polyunsaturates and this
is important because these kind of fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the body.
The second aspect is in its minor components. The most salient ones are the tocopherols and
polyphenols. These components have a major antioxidant function and are closely connected
with virgin olive oils because refining processes alter and remove them.
Extra virgin olive oil is the most digestible of the edible fats and:
- it helps to assimilate vitamins A, D and K;
- it contains essential acids that cannot be produced by our own bodies;
- it slows down the aging process; it helps bile, liver and intestinal functions.
The ancient Greeks were in the habit of consuming 1-2 spoonfuls of olive oil every morning.
It was a matter of hygienic practice which helped deal with simple chronic constipation and with
stomach ulcers. Now, in spite of the advancements in modern medicine and pharmacology,
this practice is recommended for its positive influence on the digestion. It is noteworthy that olive oil
has a beneficial effect in the dietary treatment of diabetes. In addition it helps control blood
pressure and increases the bone mass. It is believed that olive oil has a favorable effect on
the development of the central nervous and vascular systems, in brain development as well as
normal child development.
The human body easily absorbs olive oil. This means that the body absorbs the good
ingredients such as vitamin E and phenols, which have anti-oxidizing properties and prevent
the oxidization of fatty tissue. Another important element is chlorophyll. Olive oil facilitates the
cleansing of the gull bladder. Olive oil is not only easy to digest but it also helps the digestion
of other fatty substances because it helps the secretions of the peptic system and stimulates
the pancreatic enzyme lipace.
A major cause for the degeneration of the cells – and their eventual destruction – is the
accumulation of free radicals, which are produced by the oxidization of the fatty tissues in the body.
Vitamin E, phenols and other antioxidizing substances protect the human body from the negative
effects of free radicals. Olive oil contains a high percentage of phenols and vitamin E and as a
result helps delay the aging process.
Olive oil consumption has a very positive effect on blood cholesterol. Olive oil limits the oxidizing
of bad cholesterol (cause of artillery skilorsus and heart disease) because it is rich in
anti-oxidizing agents. Chemical processing may improve high acidity olive oil and make it edible
however it takes away some extremely valuable ingredients such as Vitamin and Phenols.
As a result processed olive oil (refined) lack the desirable properties and characteristics which
can be found in abundance in extra virgin olive oil.
Olive oil, as with any fatty substance, deteriorates during the frying process especially if it is used
over and over and if the frying temperature is very high. High temperature destroys the good
ingredients of any oil while it creates harmful agents for the liver, the arteries and the heart.
It is important however to take into consideration that these harmful agents are less likely to be
created in olive oil than in all other known vegetable oils and this is because olive oil has a
different composition. It contains a high percentage of oleic acid, which is much more resistant
to oxidization than the polyunsaturated acids, which are found in large amounts in seed oils.
But more importantly olive oil contains natural anti-oxidizing agents such as phenols and vitamin E.
When heated, olive oil is the most stable fat, which means it stands up well to high frying
temperatures. Its high smoking point (410º F) is well above the ideal temperature for frying food (356º F).
The digestibility of olive oil is not affected when it is heated, even when it is re-used several times for frying.
It is known that populations with a Mediterranean lifestyle and habitually use olive oil as their primary
source of fat for cooking and dressing foods live longer, healthier lives. Researches are beginning to
focus on some of the other elements in olive oil, elements that are similar to anti-cancer compounds
found in some fruits and vegetables. Olive oil does appear to have a role not only in combating heart
disease but also in the control of excess weight, diabetes and in protection against some kinds of cancer.
Now, this doesn't mean that adding olive oil to a bad diet will make you healthy but cutting fat intake,
limiting animal fats and using olive oil as primary source of dietary fat, along with a diet rich in fruits, grains,
legumes and vegetables accompanied by a regular physical activity will enhance health.
WARNING: Unscrupulous producers can sell oil as "extra virgin" as long as they meets acidity standards
and satisfies chemical analysis standards without informing consumers that some of the oil is chemically
rectified or that it has been blended. Frauds include blending olive oil with nut or seed oils, as well as
blending rectified oil with extra virgin olive oil. Obviously, such oil will not have the health benefits of a
true extra virgin olive oil!