It’s common advice for people watching their waistlines or looking to eat healthier to beware of the amount of oil they use while cooking. But that doesn’t mean we should cut oil entirely from our diet. This is because extra virgin olive oil in particular can have many benefits for our health.
Numerous studies have shown that consuming olive oil – in particular extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) – can have many different benefits for our health. For example, the Spanish PREDIMED study (the largest randomised control trial ever conducted on the Mediterranean diet) showed that women who ate a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil had a 62% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who were advised to eat a low-fat diet.
Experts who have since examined multiple scientific studies looking at the Mediterranean diet and its effect on chronic diseases conclude that a primary reason the diet protects against breast cancer is because of EVOO. There’s also evidence that EVOO may protect against type 2 diabetes and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease.
So what makes extra virgin olive oil better for us than other types of cooking oil? The answer lies in its composition.
Alongside its fat, EVOO also contains many natural substances, such as polyphenols. Polyphenols occur naturally in plants, and have been linked to many health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive disorders. Studies also seem to show that a major reason why EVOO is beneficial to our health is because of the polyphenols it contains. Polyphenols are thought to have many benefits in the body, such as improving the gut microbiome.
Research shows that the polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil are linked with lower risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, when researchers stripped EVOO of its polyphenols, they found it didn’t protect the heart from disease as well. It’s believed that one of the benefits of EVOO on heart health is because its polyphenols prevent cholesterol becoming oxidised. It’s when cholesterol reacts with oxygen and is oxidised that it damages blood vessels.