"Olive oil’s potent compounds have long been known to defend against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. But new research demonstrates extra-virgin olive oil modulates nearly 100 genes that protect against other diseases such as Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, peptic ulcers, and even aging skin."
Olive Oil: Powerful Protection Against Aging And Mortality
Olive oil is vital in the disease-reducing Mediterranean diet and positively influences nearly 100 genes that control the aging process. Studies show that olive oil protects against Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, and skin aging.
Staving Off Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists recently linked oleocanthal, a natural phenylethanoid found in extra-virgin olive oil, to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death in America. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the accumulation of amyloid-beta and tau proteins in the brain.
In a recent report, researchers found that eating a Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil for two years robustly increased serum concentrations of osteocalcin and procollagen type I N-terminal propeptide (P1NP), which in turn suggests potent protective effects against osteoporosis.
Preventing Skin Aging
Scientists surveyed 1,264 women and 1,655 men, aged 40 to 60, and analyzed their monounsaturated fatty acid intakes from dietary sources over the first 2.5 years of the follow-up period. Severity of facial skin photoaging was graded over this period by investigators using a 6- grade scale illustrated by photographs. The team found significantly lower risk of severe photoaging , for both sexes, among those with higher intakes of monounsaturated fatty acids, specifically olive oil.
Reducing Mortality Risk
Scientists analyzed data from a large, prospective study that followed 40,622 participants aged 30 to 70 for a combined total of over 550,000 person-years. They observed an impressive 26% reduction in mortality among healthy adults in the upper quartile of olive oil consumption compared to non-consumers.
Virgin olive oil produced significant reductions in interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein—inflammatory markers associated with increased heart disease risk—suggesting it represents a potent , additional intervention to pharmacological treatment.
Scientists then tested three classes of olive oil—containing low, medium, or high content of polyphenols — on plasma lipid levels and oxidative stress. This study randomly assigned 200 healthy men to consume 20 mL of each type of olive oil daily for three weeks per type. While triglyceride levels decreased similarly with all three kinds of olive oil, the most polyphenol-rich olive oil produced the greatest improvements in HDL levels and the most dramatic decreases in oxidative stress markers. It is worth noting that extra-virgin olive oil has richer polyphenol content than refined olive oil.
In 2011, scientists concluded that, compared to those who never use olive oil, those with highest olive oil consumption have a 41% reduced risk of stroke. And in a 2012 study, participants whose olive oil intake ranked in the top quarter had a 44% lower risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who consumed no olive oil.
A Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil is associated with a decreased risk of many types of cancer. Several constituents of olive oil appear to be responsible for its anticancer effects, including polyphenols and oleic acid. Oleic acid suppresses over expression of a cancer-triggering gene that plays a key role in the invasive progression and metastasis of several human cancers; a finding that could lead to an olive oil-based cancer therapy.
Evidence of olive oil’s potency against breast cancer has been accumulating quickly. Researchers separated phenolic compounds in olive oil into “fractions,” each of which was tested against breast cancer cells. The major polyphenols found in extra-virgin olive oil suppressed the breast cancer-promoting gene HER2. Cells with overactive HER2 reacted to the extra-virgin olive oil compounds by self-destructing.
Other scientists determined that olive oil attacks breast cancer tumors in several potent ways: Olive oil suppresses the oncogene that drives tumor growth; it switches off the proteins that cancer cells rely on to survive and multiply, and it protects DNA against damage that can eventually lead to cancer.
Extra-virgin olive oil reduces the expression of multiple inflammatory genes and does not activate inflammatory pathways (in contrast to other dietary fats, such as butter) and decreases inflammatory markers.Increased olive oil consumption is linked to a decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation and pain.
Protecting Stomach Health
Helicobacter pylori are bacteria linked to peptic ulcers and some strains are linked with gastric (stomach) cancer. Researchers have reported that virgin olive oil compounds exert “strong bactericidal activity against eight strains of H. pylori , three of them resistant to some antibiotics. These results open the possibility of considering virgin olive oil a chemopreventive agent for peptic ulcer or gastric cancer.”
Another study found those with the highest intakes of oleic acid, abundant in olive oil, had a 90% lower risk of developing ulcerative colitis. Dr. Andrew Hart, who along with his colleagues performed the study, stated “half of the cases of ulcerative colitis could be prevented if [2 to 3 daily tablespoons of olive oil] were consumed.”
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