Time to pack everything up and call it a day.
There’s no future for olive oil. All those years of hard work have come down to this: Corn oil reduces cholesterol more than olive oil.
I know what you’re thinking. How about all those studies over the years that said olive oil can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, even cancer? What about Dr. Oz?
Never mind all that. Mazola reduces cholesterol. What can we do? Time to turn the page and finally take up golf.
Let me explain what caused me to see things with such clarity.
I’ll admit I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Mazola ever since the early 1970s, when I was taught at a young age that corn was “maize” in the language of Indians (I know, but we called Native Americans Indians back then).
For eight years we learned about the “Goodness of Maize” from a beautiful actress named Tenaya Torres, whose people had been calling it maize “before America was America.” Mazola margarine was made from that goodness. That sweet, stone-ground maize goodness.
For eight years we watched her during commercial breaks of M*A*S*H and All in the Family, and and we showed our love by buying enough margarine to push the sales of the agro-conglomerate Best Foods to $4 billion by 1980.
Now, we’re asked to show our love again — this time for our children, our families and ourselves.
Here in the world’s largest economy, we have been inundated lately by a new Mazola commercial that urges us to “take care of those you love.” And, so far, it has played 5,475 times to a national audience. It’s airing over and over again.
The commercial explains that some options, like choosing a doughnut or an apple, are easy and apparent. Others require more careful consideration, like deciding between corn oil and olive oil.
What information should we consider in our decision? It’s in the fine print:
Corn oil has “four times more cholesterol-blocking plant sterols than olive oil,” and corn oil can “help lower cholesterol two times more (for adults with high cholesterol levels when consumed daily as part of a low saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet).”
As usual, things are not so simple.
“First of all, the reduction of LDL cholesterol does not necessarily reduce heart disease risk,” explains Olive Oil Times health editor, Elena Paravantes. “Olive oil reduces LDL but it also reduces the oxidation of LDL, which is far more important.”
“Secondly, olive oil has a multitude of benefits, thanks to antioxidants, that go way beyond lowering cholesterol — benefits such as cancer prevention, lowering blood pressure, reducing oxidation and inflammation — corn oil does not have these effects.”
Dr. Mary Flynn, associate professor of clinical medicine at Brown University, and author of the Plant-Based Olive Oil Diet, also called the focus on LDL level misguided. “You need to know if the LDL is healthy or not. If the person is consuming a diet that contains polyunsaturated fat on a regular basis (the typical American diet is high in vegetable seed oils), they will have oxidized LDL.”
“Corn oil will lower LDL, but olive oil, being mainly monounsaturated fat, will not oxidize LDL,” Flynn said. “By consuming EVOO, you will further decrease oxidation.”
Research has shown that excessive levels of omega‑6 fatty acids, relative to omega‑3 fatty acids, can increase the probability of a number of diseases. Corn oil has an omega‑6 to omega‑3 ratio of 49:1. The optimal ratio is thought to be 4 to 1 or lower.
“Using olive oil means, possibly, a slightly higher LDL,” Dr. Flynn concludes, “but it will be LDL that will not contribute to atherosclerosis and you will have a higher HDL, which is also protective for atherosclerosis development.”
But Mazola knows we only respond to simple soundbites, and the beauty of the pitch is in its simplicity: Corn oil lowers cholesterol. Take care of the ones you love.
What was the slogan of that big olive oil campaign a few years ago? Oh yeah, “add some life.” I heard it had a profound impact on the 14 people who saw it.
So while the United Kingdom enforces its new ban on olive oil bars, and tycoons in Taiwan slap olive oil labels on biodiesel, as California producers push through laws allowing harvest-date white lies, and consensus builds toward global condemnation of the olive oil cruet, there’s a TV spot on heavy rotation for corn oil titled, simply, “Options.”
If only olive oil had a campaign of its own.