The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts on the University of California, Davis campus

The International Olive Council (IOC) will unveil its American campaign, the Olive Oil Promise, ahead of the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco next week.

The Madrid-based organization will host a one-day conference to discuss olive oil and the prevention of chronic diseases in collaboration with the Robert Mondavi Institute and the Olive Center at the University of California at Davis on January 17.

“The International Olive Council is pleased to present the most recent scientific information concerning olive oil and chronic diseases to members of the scientific and olive oil community,” Jaime Lillo, the deputy executive director of the IOC, said.

Dan Flynn, the executive director of the Olive Center, said that the IOC approached his organization last summer about hosting the conference in the hope of expanding awareness of the health benefits of olive oil in the United States.

“They saw UC Davis as a desirable place to host the conference given the Olive Center’s national prominence and the conference’s potential to expand awareness of olive oil health benefits among American consumers,” Flynn said.

Experts in nutrition and preventive medicine will discuss the role of olive oil and the Mediterranean diet in preventing chronic diseases, many of which are increasingly prevalent in the United States.

“We would like to do more (research on the prevention of chronic diseases at the Olive Center), but we did deliver a study in collaboration with the Department of Nutrition and United States Department of Agriculture,” Flynn said. “The study found that oleocanthal in olive oil may reduce blood platelet aggregation, which is a serious factor in cardiovascular disease.”

Eighty people have been invited to attend the conference including “influencers and thought leaders in the areas of health, wellness, trade and government affairs, particularly those involved in California’s burgeoning olive oil industry,” according to the IOC. Those who are interested in attending are asked to contact Megan Moran at Lane PR.

The panel of experts will discuss the mechanisms of olive oil and their roles in the prevention of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

Estefanía Toledo from the University of Navarra will discuss olive oil in the prevention of breast cancer.

“Evidence is strongest for the beneficial effects of extra virgin olive oil consumption on breast cancer prevention and, more specifically, on postmenopausal breast cancer prevention,” Toledo said.

José Luchsinger from the Columbia University Medical Center, will discuss olive oil and the prevention of cognitive disorders.

“The Mediterranean diet pattern, including one of its main components, intake of olive oil, has emerged as a promising strategy for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias given its beneficial associations with other chronic disorders, particularly cardiovascular disease,” he said.

Walter Willett, from Harvard University and Miguel Martínez-Gonzalez, from the University of Navarra, will both discuss the Mediterranean diet, olive oil and cardiovascular disease.

“In our primary prevention trial, we observed that an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, resulted in a substantial reduction in the risk of major cardiovascular events among high-risk persons,” Martínez-Gonzalez wrote in a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine. “The results support the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

Manuel Franco from the University of Alcalá will present how food systems and food environments relate to Mediterranean diets and Francesco Visioli from the University of Padua will discuss olive oil action mechanisms and how olive oil compounds interact with the body.

Frank Hu, also from Harvard University, will focus on the health benefits of switching to a Mediterranean diet when he speaks about olive oil and diabetes to conclude the conference.

“A combination of several lifestyle factors [including eating a diet high in polyunsaturated fat and low in saturated and trans fats] was associated with an incidence of Type 2 diabetes that was approximately 90 percent lower than found in women without these factors,” he wrote in a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine that studied dietary patterns and their correlation with Type 2 diabetes.

The seminar will be the first IOC scientific conference held in the United States since 2001, when the council held a childhood obesity conference at Rockefeller University.

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