When patients come to me suffering from a chronic illness or with the goal of improving their health, my job is to help them optimize their nutrition, lifestyle, and environment.
Diet one of the most important factors in the goal of influencing the body’s biochemistry and physiology. The Mediterranean diet is a simple way of eating that has gained popularity in recent years, being recommended in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a decrease in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, auto-immune diseases, neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, diabetes mellitus, and cancer. Several recent research articles show a correlation between the Mediterranean diet and a decrease in these chronic diseases. What’s even more interesting is that Mediterranean diets that had higher intake of Extra Virgin Olive Oil EVOO had even better success in improving these conditions.
Extra virgin olive oil consists mainly of oleic acid and contains tocopherols, carotenoids, and as many as 36 distinct polyphenols. These polyphenols have been well-studied and are thought to have antiaging and cancer-fighting effects. For example, oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, both polyphenols found in EVOO, were shown to decrease inflammation and improve our immune systems.
Olive oil consists mainly of monounsaturated fats and is not appropriate for cooking at high temperatures. Fortunately, cooking at low and medium heat is common practice in Mediterranean countries. While frying significantly decreases the amounts of hydroxytyrosol, other polyphenols are more stable. Raw EVOO is also consumed abundantly in the Mediterranean diet, with EVOO added to salads as well as drizzled generously over cooked foods such as soups, stews, fish, and vegetables.
Extra virgin olive oil is obtained completely by mechanical means from the first pressing of the olives. Olive oil that is not extra virgin is obtained from the remains of the first (or subsequent) pressing and is extracted with the use of solvents. The amount of polyphenols in non-EVOO is virtually absent, and it is important to make this distinction clear when purchasing EVOO.
More and more scientific studies are showing that diets high in EVOO can dramatically improve our health and help to prevent a variety of illnesses.
Dr. Edward Catalano