By Massimo Occhinegro | Taranto, Italy
There is a strange “fashion” in olive oil followers which is affected by “hypocrite purists.” These purists wrongly “believe” that the oil coming by olives is only one grade: extra virgin.
For hundreds of years, people living in the production countries, including Italy, used lampante which nowadays is not considered an edible oil, in the preparation of their food.
The E.U. first, and the International Olive Oil Council later, created 4 olive oil grades: Extra Virgin, Virgin, Olive Oil and Olive Pomace Oil which is obtained by the extraction of oil from the olive residues including the olive seeds.
This last grade is obtained using exactly the same extraction method used for any seed oil, through solvents after the refinement process, mixed with extra virgin olive oil.
The Mediterranean diet, including the general “oil coming from olives,” — i.e. all the grades — became famous in the world thanks to the American scientist Ancel Keys.
USA is still the first Country leader in olive oil import, outside European Union.
All the international scientific studies conducted for establishing that olive oil is the best fat, referred to all olive oil grade, called as the general category “olive oil.”
In 2011 EFSA (the European Food Safety Agency) decided that some claims could be added to labels — among them was one which referred to extra virgin olive oil for the presence of some polyphenols.
But in November 1st, 2004 the US Food and Drug Administration announced as follows:
FDA Allows Qualified Health Claim to Decrease Risk of Coronary Heart Disease
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today allows a qualified health claim for monounsaturated fat from olive oil and reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).
There is limited but not conclusive evidence that suggests that consumers may reduce their risk of CHD if they consume monounsaturated fat from olive oil and olive oil-containing foods in place of foods high in saturated fat, while at the same time not increasing the total number of calories consumed daily.
“With this claim, consumers can make more informed decisions about maintaining healthy dietary practices,” said Dr. Lester M. Crawford, Acting FDA Commissioner. “Since CHD is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S., it is a public health priority to make sure that consumers have accurate and useful information on reducing their risk.”
A qualified health claim on a conventional food must be supported by credible scientific evidence. Based on a systematic evaluation of the available scientific data, as outlined in FDA’s “Interim Procedures for Qualified Health Claims in the Labeling of Conventional Human Food and Human Dietary Supplements,” FDA is announcing the availability of this claim on food labels and the labeling of olive oil and certain foods that contain olive oil.
Although this research is not conclusive, the FDA intends to exercise its enforcement discretion with respect to the following qualified health claim:
“Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. One serving of this product [Name of food] contains [x] grams of olive oil.”
The FDA admitted claim mentioned “monounsaturated fat from olive oil” (MUFA). MUFA are contained in all olive oil categories including:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Virgin Olive Oil
- Olive Oil (often called Pure)
- Olive Pomace Oil
They did not mention “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” only because all the studies were done on olive oil in general.
At the moment only in the European Union, and very recently, it was introduced that only the few extra virgin olive oils (the more bitter and fruity usually) could add the claim about the presence of few polyphenols compound which should be measured.
It means that not all the extra virgin olive oil could have a high level of polyphenols.
As a conclusion all olive oils are healthy product if compared to all the seed oils available and consumed in the world simply because they have the highest level of MUFA, which reduce the Coronary Hearth Disease. Consequently the “purists” are wrong. It might be for a deep ignorance or a perhaps a peculiar interest.
Unfortunately olive oil consumption in the world is only close to 4 percent of the total fats consumed in the world and all the countries who want to reduce their health problems should replace the seed oil with olive oil.
This opinion article was only lightly edited.
This article was last updated October 9, 2012 - 8:08 PM (GMT-4)