The International Olive Council’s latest reportBy admin Posted in: News on October 2nd, 2012
The International Olive Council’s latest report highlights the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and Olive Oil
Scientific research continues to uncover more evidence that supports the benefits of dietary and lifestyle choices on health, including the Mediterranean diet (MD)1 and olive oil. The International Olive Council’s most recent white paper, “The Emerging Health Attributes of the Mediterranean Diet and Olive Oil,” explains how the good fat found in olive oil along with other lifestyle factors can help protect human health.
Below is a preview of key findings.
Making Sense of Fats – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Not all fats are unhealthy; the quality and quantity of fats consumed are significant in determining their role in diet and overall health. While all fats are mixtures of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, it is the proportion of fatty acids in a given fat that matters. Fats are necessary for heart, brain and neurologic health and other functions of the body. They are critical to absorption of important fat-soluble vitamins E, A and K as well as carotenoids. Depending upon age, health status, level of activity and other factors, total fat should comprise twenty to thirty-five percent of daily caloric intake. All fats have roughly the same calories (9 kcal per gram), but there are good/healthy fats2 (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), bad fats (saturated fats) and “ugly” fats (trans fats).
Olive Oil and Inflammation
Diet can help in preventing or managing illnesses related to inflammation, particularly with respect to cardiovascular health. Researchers in Italy studied the diets of 131 healthy adults, and rated each person’s diet for overall adherence to a MD. Using a MD score they tested subjects’ blood for cholesterol and triglycerides, antioxidant levels, immune system function and oxidative stress. They found that those who had a higher MD score had less inflammation, reduced oxidative stress, and higher circulating levels of antioxidants, all factors associated with reduced risk of disease.3
Olive Oil and Brain Function
In addition to polyphenols in olive oil, oleic acid also seems to protect against age-related cognitive decline. As people age, the brain appears to need more MUFA (oleic acid) to prevent degeneration.4 After nine years of follow up, the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging revealed that a diet high in MUFA was associated with better cognitive performance in elderly people following a MD.5
Quality of Life
Health-related quality of life (HRQL) studies are used to measure health interventions. A new HRQL study6 has added more reasons to follow a Mediterranean dietary pattern, including association with better mental and physical health. Researchers studied 11,015 university graduates over 4 years. Dietary intake data was taken at the beginning of the study and self-perceived quality of life was measured at the end of the study. The results revealed that those who followed the MD most closely enjoyed better mental and physical health. The association was even stronger with physical well-being. The subjects reported more energy, better physical health, less pain, and greater vitality and social functioning.7
1. There is no single Mediterranean diet (MD). For the purposes of discussion, the Mediterranean diet refers to several dietary patterns in the region with similar food intakes, including the prominence of olive oil as the primary source of fat. Fatty acids from fish are also key to the health benefits of the MD.
2. Because fats are high in calories, even fats with positive health attributes should be consumed in moderation.
3. Azzizi E et al. Mediterranean diet effect: An Italian Picture. Nutr. J 2011;10:25-33.
4. Solfrizzi V et al. High monounsaturated fatty acid intake protects against age-related cognitive decline. Neurology 1999:52;1563-1574.
5. Solfrizzi V et al. Dietary intake of unsaturated fatty acids and age-related cognitive decline: an 8.5-year follow-up of the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging. Neurobiol Aging 2006;27:1694–704.
6. There are several other studies on quality of life that are referenced in the new SUN Project research paper.
7. Henriquez Sanchez. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and quality of life in the SUN Project. Eur J Clin Nutr 2012;66:360-68.