D.S. Olive Oil Benefits for Your Heart & Brain
8 Extra Virgin Olive Oil Benefits
1. Protects Heart Health
- Studies have found that high monounsaturated fat diets lower LDL cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides better than lower-fat, higher-carb diets do. (4) Thanks to powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols, extra virgin oil is considered an anti-inflammatory food and cardiovascular protector. When someone’s immune system essentially begins to fight her own body as a result of a poor diet, stress or other factors, inflammatory responses are triggered that lead to dangerous, disease-causing inflammation.
- The purpose of inflammation is to protect us against illnesses and repair the body when needed, but chronic inflammation is extremely harmful to arterial health and linked to heart disease, autoimmune diseases and more. Extra virgin olive oil helps reverse inflammatory along with age- and disease-related changes to the heart and blood vessels, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology. Research shows olive oil is beneficial for lowering high blood pressure because it makes nitric oxide more bioavailable, which keeps arteries dilated and clear. (5)
- The protective effects of a Mediterranean-style diet rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from olive oil have been shown in many studies, with some finding that this type of higher-fat diet is capable of decreasing the risk of cardiac death by 30 percent and sudden cardiac death by 45 percent! (6)
2. Helps Fight Cancer
- According to a 2004 study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, olives and olive oil contain antioxidants in abundance. (7) They are some of the best high antioxidant foods. Olives (especially those that have not been subjected to high-heat processes) contain acteosides, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol and phenyl propionic acids. Both olives and olive oil contain substantial amounts of other compounds deemed to be anticancer agents (e.g., squalene and terpenoids) as well as the peroxidation-resistant lipid oleic acid.
- Researchers feel that it’s probable that high olive and olive oil consumption in southern Europe represents an important contribution to the beneficial effects of cancer prevention and health in the Mediterranean diet.
3. Helps with Weight Loss and Obesity Prevention
- Eating plenty of healthy fats is a key element in controlling excess insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels, makes us gain weight, and keeps the weight packed on despite us cutting calories and exercising more. Fats are satiating and help reduce hunger, cravings and overeating. This is one reason why numerous studies have found that diets low in fat don’t result in weight loss or weight maintenance as easily or often as balanced, higher-fat diets do.
- After reviewing five trials including a total of 447 individuals, researchers from University Hospital Basel in Switzerland found that individuals assigned to higher-fat, low-carbohydrate diets lost more weight than individuals randomized to low-fat diets. There were no differences in blood pressure levels between the two groups, but triglyceride and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol values changed more favorably in individuals assigned to the diets higher in fat. (8)
- Because diets with ample amounts of healthy fats are more satisfying, people are much more likely to be able to stick with them. A 2002 study published in the Women’s Health Journal, for example, found that an olive oil-enriched diet brought about greater weight loss than a lower-fat diet in an eight-week comparison. Following the eight weeks, the participants also overwhelmingly chose the olive oil-enriched diet for at least six months of the follow-up period. (9)
4. Supports Brain Health
- The brain is largely made up of fatty acids, and we require a moderately high level on a daily basis to perform tasks, regulate our moods and think clearly. (10) Like other sources of healthy fats, olive oil is considered a brain food that improves focus and memory.
- Olive oil may help fight age-related cognitive decline, as it’s part of the Mediterranean diet and offers monounsaturated fatty acids associated with sustained brain health. (11)
5. Fights Mood Disorders and Depression
- Healthy fats, including olive oil, have hormone-balancing, anti-inflammatory effects that can prevent neurotransmitter dysfunction. Low-fat diets are often linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety. Mood or cognitive disorders can occur when the brain doesn’t get a sufficient amount of “happy hormones” like serotonin or dopamine, important chemical messengers that are necessary for mood regulation, getting good sleepand thought-processing.
- One 2011 study conducted by the University of Las Palmas in Spain found that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat intake had an inverse relationship with depression risk. At the same time, trans-fat intake and depression risk had a linear relationship, showing that higher trans-fat consumption and lower PUFA and MUFA could up the chances of battling mood disorders and treating depression. (12)
6. Naturally Slows Aging
- An anti-aging diet should have plenty of healthy fats. Extra virgin olive oil is a great example. It contains a type of antioxidant called secoiridoids, which help activate gene signatures contributing to anti-aging and a reduction of cellular stress.
- Secoiridoids in olive oil may also suppress gene expression related the the Warburg effect, a process related to the formation of cancer, and helps to prevent “age-related changes” in skin cells. (13)
- Just remember that olive oil shouldn’t be cooked at high heat, or it could have the opposite effect. Cooking with olive oil produces advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which contribute to “the multisystem functional decline that occurs with aging.” (14, 15)
7. May Help Lower Risk of Diabetes
- Fatty acids influence glucose metabolism by altering cell membrane function, enzyme activity, insulin signaling and gene expression. Evidence suggests that consuming polyunsaturated and/or monounsaturated fats (the kind found in olive oil) has beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and is likely to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes. (16)
- While carbohydrates elevate blood sugar by providing glucose, fats help stabilize blood sugar levels and regulate insulin. Even when you eat something high in sugar or carbs, adding extra virgin olive oil to the meal can help slow down the impact on your bloodstream. Consuming olive oil is also a great way to feel more satisfied after meals, which can help prevent sugar cravings and overeating that can lead to diabetes complications.
8. Is Associated with Lower Breast Cancer Risk
- A case-control study conducted in Italy in 1995 discovered that, over 2,564 cases of breast cancer, higher consumption of olive oil was correlated with a lower risk of developing the disease. (17) While there aren’t clear reasons for this, there is often an assumed interaction between healthy fats and hormone function, which could be one possible explanation.