The Olive Wellness Institute, an olive oil science organization, has published its inaugural 2023 extra virgin olive oil health and nutrition report.
The report reviews the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, how it is made, what separates it from other olive oil grades, how to effectively cook with extra virgin olive oil and the sustainability of olive oil production.
By educating healthcare professionals, we hope that they will go on to educate their clients and patients on the benefits of extra virgin olive oil.
Sian Armstrong, an accredited dietician with the Olive Wellness Institute and Cobram Estate, told Olive Oil Times the report is mainly geared at health professionals but is written in accessible prose for the general public too.
“We decided to publish this report as we wanted to have one single resource that was the ‘go-to’ guide for all things health and extra virgin olive oil,” she said.See Also:Health News
“We wanted a resource that was easy to read and digest and could benefit our target audience of health professionals but also be accessible to the general public,” Armstrong added. “We also wanted this report to help create some buzz around extra virgin olive oil.”
The report was presented at an event in Melbourne, Australia, to an audience of public health professionals, health care professionals, dietitians and nutritionists.
“The main goal of this report is to educate healthcare professionals on the health and wellness benefits of extra virgin olive oil,” Armstrong said. “By educating healthcare professionals, we hope that they will go on to educate their clients and patients on the benefits of extra virgin olive oil.”
“This will hopefully have a flow-on effect to increase the consumption of extra virgin olive oil in Australia,” she added.
The report begins with a basic definition of extra virgin olive oil, followed by a detailed description of what sets it apart from other grades of olive oil and cooking oils.
Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is a type of olive oil that is obtained from the cold transformation of olives and is the highest quality olive oil. It is unrefined, which means it retains its natural flavor, aroma, and nutrients. To qualify as extra virgin, the oil must meet specific chemical criteria, including having an acidity level of less than 0.8 percent. Extra virgin olive oil has a distinct greenish-gold color, a fruity and slightly bitter taste, and is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, making it a healthy choice for cooking and dressing salads. It is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine and is known for its health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and lowering cholesterol levels.
The Olive Wellness Institute highlighted extra virgin olive oil’s biophenols, antioxidants, health benefits and potential to act as a carbon sink as a few ways the product is differentiated.
“Modern science is uncovering how [extra virgin olive oil] is associated with a reduced risk of several chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and some cancers,” the report said.
“The fatty acid profile of extra virgin olive oil and bioactive compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties has been linked to protective effects against coronary, neurodegenerative, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, as well as being anti-thrombotic and regulating blood pressure,” the report added.
The report recommends consuming 25 to 50 milliliters of extra virgin olive oil daily to enjoy its health benefits.
The Olive Wellness Institute also compared the nutrient composition of extra virgin olive oil with common competitors on supermarket shelves, including canola oil, coconut oil and sunflower oil.
The institute highlighted how extra virgin olive oil is produced only mechanically, preserving the polyphenols and phenolic compounds that provide health benefits, while seed oils are produced chemically.
“Seeds are very difficult to extract oil from, so they need to be heated and the oil extracted with solvents and or high pressure,” the report said. “Seed oils are then refined before being suitable for human consumption. This means that most of the antioxidants in seeds are lost during production, and there can be the formation of harmful trans fats and other secondary products of oxidation.”
As a result, extra virgin olive oil has up to 120 times more health-promoting biophenols than canola oil. The report added that cooking with sunflower oil produces more aldehydes, a carcinogen, due to the removal of biophenols during the refining process.
Biophenols in olive oil
Olive oil biophenols are natural chemical compounds found in extra-virgin olive oil, which is extracted from the fruit of the olive tree. These compounds have been shown to have various health benefits, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. Biophenols are a type of polyphenol, which is a class of organic compounds that are naturally found in many plants, including olives. Olive oil biophenols are derived from the phenolic compounds found in the olive fruit, which are then extracted during the oil-making process. The concentration of biophenols in olive oil can vary depending on several factors, including the variety of olive, the ripeness of the fruit, and the method of extraction. Extra-virgin olive oil is typically higher in biophenols than other types of olive oil and contains the highest levels of beneficial compounds.
The Olive Wellness Institute report also dispelled some pervasive myths about cooking with extra virgin olive oil.
“There is a common myth that extra virgin olive oil cannot be used for high-temperature cooking due to its lower smoke point compared to some other cooking oils,” the report said.
According to the myth, extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point is too low for most types of household cooking. When heated above its smoke point, edible oils degrade and produce polar compounds. Some polar compounds have been associated with neurodegenerative diseases and other health problems.
“This myth is not supported by any published evidence and smoke point does not predict when an oil starts to lose stability,” the report said. “Smoke point is not a good indicator of how stable an oil is when heated.”
Instead, some research shows that extra virgin olive oil is more stable when exposed to high-heat cooking conditions than other common vegetable and seed oils.
The report also highlighted how cooking with extra virgin olive oil increases the bioavailability of fat-soluble bioactive compounds, such as the numerous polyphenols. It provided tips for consumers to use extra virgin olive oil in their recipes.
Among the tips are replacing commercial salad dressing with extra virgin olive oil, swapping butter for extra virgin olive oil in baking, cooking seasonal vegetables with extra virgin olive oil and using extra virgin olive oil to make scrambled eggs instead of milk.
The report concludes by summarizing how extra virgin olive oil is produced. It highlights that olive oil production from traditional groves captures an average of 10.65 kilograms of atmospheric carbon dioxide per liter.
Along with educating healthcare professionals and consumers, Armstrong said the report would hopefully work as an advocacy tool for changing nutrition guidelines.
“A further goal of the report is as an advocacy tool,” she said. “We hope that public health professionals in Australia will use the information in this report to advocate for change to nutrition policies such as the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Health Star Rating.”
“We would like to see cooking oils, and extra virgin olive oil, in particular, elevated in these policies, as currently we do not believe the recommendations and rankings best reflect the body of evidence,” Armstrong concluded.