` Mediterranean Diet Gaining Among Nutritionists But Olive Oil Still on Sidelines - Olive Oil Times

Mediterranean Diet Gaining Among Nutritionists But Olive Oil Still on Sidelines

Oct. 28, 2013
Elena Paravantes

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Over 8,000 nutri­tion pro­fes­sion­als attended the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Houston this year. The con­fer­ence, orga­nized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the world’s largest annual meet­ing of food and nutri­tion experts. This year the pro­gram included sev­eral ses­sions related to the Mediterranean diet and healthy oils with advice on how to imple­ment the diet and include good” oils in the eat­ing pat­terns of Americans. Despite the wide­spread recog­ni­tion of the ben­e­fits of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil con­tin­ues to be very much over­looked in the dietetic com­mu­nity. This may have to do with the nature of the edu­ca­tional ses­sions pre­sented, but also the pro­mo­tion that goes on dur­ing these expo­si­tions.

In one edu­ca­tional ses­sion with the title: A new per­spec­tive on healthy oils: From belly fat to heart health, Dr. Peter Jones, direc­tor of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, pre­sented his study com­par­ing canola oil, high oleic acid canola oil, flax/safflower oil, DHA enriched high oleic acid canola oil and corn & saf­flower oil and their effects on car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease risk. The study was funded by the Canola Council of Canada, Flax Council of Canada and Dow Agrosciences among oth­ers. Of course there was no men­tion of olive oil or any com­par­i­son to it.

The sec­ond part of this ses­sion dis­cussed dietary rec­om­men­da­tions for fats and how they fit into healthy eat­ing pat­terns. While it was men­tioned that the type of fat is impor­tant and not the amount, once again olive oil was barely men­tioned, and the mes­sage to the dieti­tians was that canola oil appears to be a desir­able option for replace­ment of sat­u­rated fat.

In another ses­sion Dr. Emilio Ross, from the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona pre­sented the Predimed study, which gar­nered wide­spread inter­est ear­lier this year as it showed that a Mediterranean style diet with olive oil and nuts could pro­tect from stroke more than a low-fat diet. He dis­cussed the details of the study, as well as its com­po­nents such as olive oil and nuts. Ross, who was also one of the researchers on the Predimed team sug­gested that per­haps nutri­tional rec­om­men­da­tions should be recon­sid­ered based on these results.

When it came to a dis­cus­sion of the appli­ca­tion of this diet, the sec­ond pre­sen­ter, Dr. Penny Kris-Atherton PhD, RD, a noted car­dio­vas­cu­lar researcher and dietit­ian said that a Mediterranean-style diet can be adjusted for today’s lifestyle. While that was encour­ag­ing, she pro­vided a vague descrip­tion of the Mediterranean diet and lacked some impor­tant infor­ma­tion about the main source of fat in it: olive oil. In fact the only resource that she pro­vided to the dieti­tians in the audi­ence on olive oil was the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (rec­om­men­da­tions about which foods to choose, and which to avoid for the American pub­lic pub­lished by USDA), which men­tions olive oil briefly along with other oils such as canola and saf­flower.

The health­ful­ness of nuts was stressed often dur­ing this ses­sion and that comes as no sur­prise since both speak­ers have either received grants or have been con­sul­tants for the California wal­nut com­mis­sion.

Yet another ses­sion focused on the ben­e­fits of corn oil, with the title: What’s Old Is New Again: Corn Oil and a Reduced Risk of Heart Disease. Here the research team of ACH, the com­pany that owns the Mazola corn oil brand, pre­sented their study on the heart-healthy ben­e­fits of corn oil. The research coor­di­na­tor Dr. Constance Geiger said, This new study could poten­tially change the way health­care pro­fes­sion­als and reg­is­tered dieti­tians view corn oil and cook­ing oil in gen­eral,” and the descrip­tion of the ses­sion noted, While corn oil serves as the gold stan­dard for which other oils’ effec­tive­ness is tested, the appear­ance of many new oils on the gro­cery store shelves has many dietetic pro­fes­sion­als con­fused about research sur­round­ing the health ben­e­fits for these prod­ucts.”

Nutrition pro­fes­sion­als par­tic­u­larly in the U.S. con­tinue to receive one-sided infor­ma­tion when it comes to the basics of the Mediterranean diet and olive oil. While it is impor­tant for the lat­est research to be pre­sented at nutri­tion con­fer­ences, it is also impor­tant to present all of the facts. Discussions about healthy oils and fats, heart dis­ease and the Mediterranean diet can­not be com­plete with­out dis­cussing olive oil which was the only oil used in the often-touted Mediterranean diet.

But apart from the ses­sions, the expo­si­tion, which gath­ers over 350 com­pa­nies, is another area where com­pa­nies have the oppor­tu­nity to edu­cate, teach and pro­mote their prod­ucts to reg­is­tered dieti­tians and other nutri­tion pro­fes­sion­als. Companies and orga­ni­za­tions such as the Canola Council of Canada and the United Soybean Board have been pro­mot­ing their prod­ucts for years to dieti­tians with edu­ca­tional mate­ri­als, sam­ples, recipes, give­aways and culi­nary demon­stra­tions.

Now we are see­ing com­pa­nies such as Dow Agrosciences also pro­mot­ing their oils such as the so-called Omega‑9 Oils. In case you do not know what Omega‑9 is, it is actu­ally another term for oleic acid, the most pre­dom­i­nant fatty acid in olive oil. One may won­der if this term is now being used, instead of the term oleic since it may remind con­sumers of the word olive.” Let’s not for­get that the word oil actu­ally comes from the Greek word elaion (olive tree). According to some sources the word oil” referred only to olive oil until the 1300’s.

Unfortunately there was lit­tle pres­ence or pro­mo­tion of olive oil at the huge con­fer­ence — only a small booth for the North American Olive Oil Association, with a few hand­outs. This is a missed oppor­tu­nity for olive oil orga­ni­za­tions. Olive oil for many con­sumers is asso­ci­ated with its health ben­e­fits, and con­sumers receive much of their nutri­tion infor­ma­tion by the media and nutri­tion pro­fes­sion­als. It is espe­cially impor­tant that olive oil is pre­sented and pro­moted to this group, as they are the ones who will not only rec­om­mend a par­tic­u­lar oil to their clients and patients but also the ones who will appear in the media when healthy oils and the Mediterranean diet are dis­cussed.

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