Author Archives: Robert Jaye

Olive oil to prevent cardiovascular disease

Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events

by R. T.

The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and cereals; a moderate intake of fish and poultry; a low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats, and sweets; and wine in moderation, consumed with meals.In observational cohort studies and a secondary prevention trial (the Lyon Diet Heart Study), increasing adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been consistently beneficial with respect to cardiovascular risk. A systematic review ranked the Mediterranean diet as the most likely dietary model to provide protection against coronary heart disease. Small clinical trials have uncovered plausible biologic mechanisms to explain the salutary effects of this food pattern.
Spanish researchers designed a randomized trial to test the efficacy of two Mediterranean diets (one supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and another with nuts), as compared with a control diet (advice on a low-fat diet), on primary cardiovascular prevention.

In this trial, an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil or nuts resulted in an absolute risk reduction of approximately 3 major cardiovascular events per 1000 person-years, for a relative risk reduction of approximately 30%, among high-risk persons who were initially free of cardiovascular disease. These results support the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for cardiovascular risk reduction. They are particularly relevant given the challenges of achieving and maintaining weight loss. The secondary prevention Lyon Diet Heart Study also showed a large reduction in rates of coronary heart disease events with a modified Mediterranean diet enriched with alpha-linolenic acid (a key constituent of walnuts). That result, however, was based on only a few major events.

There were small between-group differences in some baseline characteristics in our trial, which were not clinically meaningful but were statistically significant, and we therefore adjusted for these variables. In fully adjusted analyses, we found significant results for the combined cardiovascular end point and for stroke, but not for myocardial infarction alone. This could be due to stronger effects on specific risk factors for stroke but also to a lower statistical power to identify effects on myocardial infarction. Our findings are consistent with those of prior observational studies of the cardiovascular protective effects of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil, and nuts; smaller trials assessing effects on traditional cardiovascular risk factors6-9 and novel risk factors, such as markers of oxidation, inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction; and studies of conditions associated with high cardiovascular risk — namely, the metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Thus, a causal role of the Mediterranean diet in cardiovascular prevention has high biologic plausibility. The results of our trial might explain, in part, the lower cardiovascular mortality in Mediterranean countries than in northern European countries or the United States.

The risk of stroke was reduced significantly in the two Mediterranean-diet groups. This is consistent with epidemiologic studies that showed an inverse association between the Mediterranean diet or olive-oil consumption and incident stroke.

Our results compare favorably with those of the Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial, wherein a low-fat dietary approach resulted in no cardiovascular benefit. Salient components of the Mediterranean diet reportedly associated with better survival include moderate consumption of ethanol (mostly from wine), low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil. Perhaps there is a synergy among the nutrient-rich foods included in the Mediterranean diet that fosters favorable changes in intermediate pathways of cardiometabolic risk, such as blood lipids, insulin sensitivity, resistance to oxidation, inflammation, and vasoreactivity.

Our study has several limitations. First, the protocol for the control group was changed halfway through the trial. The lower intensity of dietary intervention for the control group during the first few years might have caused a bias toward a benefit in the two Mediterranean-diet groups, since the participants in these two groups received a more intensive intervention during that time. However, we found no significant interaction between the period of trial enrollment (before vs. after the protocol change) and the benefit in the Mediterranean-diet groups. Second, we had losses to follow-up, predominantly in the control group, but the participants who dropped out had a worse cardiovascular risk profile at baseline than those who remained in the study, suggesting a bias toward a benefit in the control group. Third, the generalizability of our findings is limited because all the study participants lived in a Mediterranean country and were at high cardiovascular risk; whether the results can be generalized to persons at lower risk or to other settings requires further research.

As with many clinical trials, the observed rates of cardiovascular events were lower than anticipated, with reduced statistical power to separately assess components of the primary end point. However, favorable trends were seen for both stroke and myocardial infarction. We acknowledge that, even though participants in the control group received advice to reduce fat intake, changes in total fat were small and the largest differences at the end of the trial were in the distribution of fat subtypes. The interventions were intended to improve the overall dietary pattern, but the major between-group differences involved the supplemental items. Thus, extra-virgin olive oil and nuts were probably responsible for most of the observed benefits of the Mediterranean diets. Differences were also observed for fish and legumes but not for other food groups. The small between-group differences in the diets during the trial are probably due to the facts that for most trial participants the baseline diet was similar to the trial Mediterranean diet and that the control group was given recommendations for a healthy diet, suggesting a potentially greater benefit of the Mediterranean diet as compared with Western diets.

In conclusion, in this 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. The results support the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.
by R. T.
04 March 2013 Teatro Naturale International n. 3 Year 5

Dispelling the Myths of Frying with Olive Oil

It is fairly common knowledge these days that olive oil has certain health benefits and that using olive oil in vinaigrettes, emulsions and baked goods, drizzled on or dipped into, adds an extra layer of flavor and moisture when needed as well. But it is lesser known that olive oil presents an opportunity to gain the same benefits from stove top cooking, in high temperature methods such as frying and sautéing.
I know what you are thinking, frying and healthy? No such thing! But the truth is that by using extra virgin olive oil you can have both.

Although pan frying, deep frying, stir frying and sautéing are different stove top methods, they all have one thing in common: the temperature of the cooking oil. The object of these cooking methods is to cook the outside of the food quickly, creating a crispy exterior, while at the same time allowing the heat from the oil to penetrate all the way through. In order to accomplish this, the oil must reach a temperature of 350 to 370 degrees before introducing the food.

Myth number one: The smoking point of olive oil is too low for frying.
Some cooking oils and fats will reach what is referred to as the smoking point before reaching temperatures required for a good fry. The smoking point is the temperature at which a chemical change takes place resulting in undesirable smoke and flavor. Olive oil is not one of them. The smoking point of extra virgin olive oil is somewhere between 380 and 410 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the impurities and acid content of the olive oil: the better the quality, the higher the smoking point. So, it appears that the smoking point of olive oil is well above the temperature required.

Myth number two: Frying temperatures will change olive oil from a ‘good oil’ to a ‘bad oil.’
Cooking fats and oils are considered dietary fats of which there are three types, saturated, trans and unsaturated. The first two are bad, but the third, unsaturated fat, includes olive oil, a healthy plant-derived dietary fat. The heat required to raise the temperature of olive oil high enough to fry food cannot change the chemical composition of olive oil from a good one to a bad one.

Myth number three: Fried foods absorb cooking oil, making you fat.
Properly fried food will absorb much less cooking oil if the temperature of the oil is hot enough before food is introduced. Otherwise, the food will indeed soak up the oil, producing a soggy, flaccid product. You know, like those oil soaked fries you had last week from your favorite fast food chain.

Not only can you fry with extra virgin olive oil, but you should. Frying with EVOO not only satisfies our desire for Southern-fried comfort foods, Asian stir fry, Mexican fajitas and Italian veal piccata, but it does all of that in addition to fulfilling our nutritional requirements for a healthy dietary fat as well.

Five Suggestions to Eschew Butter for Olive Oil

When you first tried wine, as a neophyte, you probably limited yourself to a buttery chardonnay or the light fruity taste of a white zinfandel. Then with experience and opportunity, your palate began to notice and favor dryer whites and perhaps even heavier reds.

The same is true of olive oil. With experience and opportunity you will find what pleases your palate the most. When you do, don’t limit the use to the sauté pan, salad or your favorite pasta dish. Think instead of drizzling over, rubbing on or dipping into your favorite extra virgin olive oil — just as you might a melted stick of butter.

There are certain foods that come to mind when we think of melted butter. They are foods that since childhood, we would never consider eating without it — foods such as popcorn, lobster or morning toast. Just as you now favor more complex wines with your go-to foods from your youth, you just might favor the more complex flavor of olive oil over butter.

Here are five of my favorites. Butter or olive oil? You decide.


Whisk up some olive oil with sea salt, black pepper and garlic granules, drizzle over and toss.


Dip it into extra virgin olive oil flavored with celery seed, sea salt and thyme. It’s like eating the best part of a lobster roll—the lobster.

Corn on the cob

Brush the warm cob generously with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle it with your favorite herbs and spices. Wrap it in foil and let it rest, allowing the oil to absorb all of the flavors.

Grilled cheese

Cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil and sprinkle it with your favorite seasoning. Heat the pan just until ripples form then sear each side of the sandwich. Cover and cook until the crust is crunchy, golden brown and the cheese has melted.

Beurre blanc or butter sauce

Sweat minced shallots and reduce equal parts of white wine vinegar and dry vermouth to desired thickness. Add seasonings. Whisk in extra virgin olive oil and spoon the sauce over your favorite flaky white fish.

Which do you prefer—the expected banal flavor of butter or the unexpected complexity of your favorite extra virgin olive oil?

By Angela Bell

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Olive Oil Found to Help Prevent Skin Cancer

Olive Oil Found to Help Prevent Skin Cancer

By Christian Brazil Bautista
Olive Oil Times Contributor
A study conducted by Dr. Niva Shapira from Tel Aviv University in Israel and Bob Kuklinski of Rockstock University in Germany found that olive oil, along with other components of a Mediterranean diet, may contribute to the prevention of malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma, which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, may be slowed down by consumption of olive oil, which is rich in antioxidants.

The research showed that the body develops a resistance to the damaging rays of the sun due to carotenoids. Carotenoids are the color pigments found in fruits and vegetables such as watermelons, tomatoes, pumpkins and carrots. Olive oil has also been found to protect the skin against the damaging effects of UV rays.

Olive oil, which is the only vegetable oil that can be taken as it is, contains high levels of antioxidatives and has monounsaturated fatty acids. Studies have also shown that olive oil prevents heart disease. It was found that olive oil controls the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) while raising the levels of good cholesterol (HDL). Due to its vitamin E contents, olive oil also provides cellular protection against free radicals. Olive oil aids in neutralizing free radicals, which leads to a lower risk for colon cancer. Regular consumption of olive oil may also lower the
risk of diabetes.

According to Dr. Shapira, the use of sunscreen remains the best way to prevent sunburn and shield the skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. However, In an interview with the Pakistan News Service, Dr. Shapira adds that “Going Greek,” or consuming olive oil and other Mediterranean food staples, could help counter the oxidizing effect of the sun. Her statement is strengthened by statistics that show that only three in every 100,000 residents of countries in the Mediterranean develop any form of skin cancer. The figure is low, especially when considering the warm climate in the region. In Australia, the figure is 50 in every 100,000 residents.
Source: Tel Aviv University

Olive Oil Beneficial During Fertility Treatment

While research has shown that the consumption of olive oil protects from various chronic diseases, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health has found a positive association association between good fats and positive outcomes in women having In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
Dietary fat intake has been previously associated with reproductive health, for example, a high intake of trans-fats has been associated with ovulatory infertility and miscarriage, while saturated fats have been related to lower sperm concentrations. But there is little information about the effect of dietary fat during fertility treatment.

This study investigated the effect of dietary fat in women having IVF. The study was presented this week at the annual meeting of ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology) by Dr Jorge Chavarro, Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health.

The researchers investigated intakes of total fat but also saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat as well as omega-6, omega-3 and trans fats. The results of the analysis showed that higher intakes of monounsaturated fat, the main fat found in olive oil, were related to higher odds of live birth. The odds of a live birth after embryo transfer was 3.45 times higher for women who had the highest intake of monounsaturated fat compared to those with the lowest intake.
Women with higher intakes of total fat had fewer metaphase II (MII) oocytes (only MII oocytes can be used for IVF) retrieved than women with lower intakes, this association appears to be driven by saturated fat intake according to Professor Chavarro. Polyunsaturated fat also had a negative effect. Women consuming the most polyunsaturated fat had a higher proportion of poor quality embryos.

Professor Chavarro noted that it is important that the results are replicated in other studies before making strong recommendations about fat intake to women having infertility treatment. However, olive oil, one of the best sources of monounsaturated fats has been proven to be beneficial in general and it is recommended to anybody including woman undergoing IVF to include olive oil in their diet.


European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology

Use Olive Oil To Live a Longer and Healthier Life

While we know that olive oil can protect from various chronic diseases, there isn’t much research on its association with mortality. In other words can the consumption of olive oil reduce the risk of death? Spanish researchers set out to answer this question by examining the association between olive oil and mortality in the Spanish population with over 40,000 participants.
The participants were from the Spanish sub-group of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Spain), a cohort study of the relationships between diet and cancer, as well as other chronic diseases, taking place in 10 European countries.

Information was gathered from men and women aged 29-69 years old, from 5 Spanish regions. The researchers analyzed the association between olive oil and overall mortality as well as mortality from specific causes such as cardiovascular disease.
After 13 years, researchers followed up with the participants and found that individuals who consumed olive oil had a lower mortality. More specifically, individuals who consumed the most olive oil had a 44 percent reduction in mortality due to heart disease and a 26 percent reduction of overall mortality compared to those who did not consume any olive oil.
So now we know that olive oil in the diet decreases the chances of dying from all causes but especially from cardiovascular disease. This study provides further evidence that replacing the fat in your diet with olive oil has a protective effect.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)

Beyond Extra Virgin


By Jane Black, Published: October 18, 2011

Paolo Pasquali does not like to be called a crusader for good olive oil. But when I visited his oleoteca, the tasting room he built at Villa Campestri, his “olive oil resort” in the hills north of Florence, it was impossible for him to talk of anything else. At lunch, dinner and breakfast the next morning, Pasquali rhapsodized about the storied history of the olive and fumed about consumers’ feckless embrace of cheap oil. And, for most of the time, his pitch sounded like that of any number of upstart chocolate, coffee or cured-meat producers: Like wine, my product deserves more respect.

That is, until Pasquali reached into an imposing antique sideboard and pulled out a silver tray holding several small, brown apothecary bottles. “Smell this,” he said, waving one labeled “rancid” under my nose.

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It didn’t smell bright or floral, like Pasquali’s oil. But it did smell familiar. The rancid oil smelled like most olive oils I had had at restaurants and cooked with at home.

It has been about 30 years since many Americans began giving up their lard and Crisco for more-healthful extra-virgin oil. But that extra-virgin label has proved a poor guide to choosing the highest-quality oils. According to a recent study by the UC Davis Olive Center, 73 percent of the top five brands of imported extra-virgin olive oil failed to meet accepted international standards for extra-virgin. Moreover, a separate report revealed that 44 percent of consumers actually preferred rancid or fusty oil, a possible result of the prevalence of substandard extra-virgins available to American consumers.

Now, a new movement is afoot to redefine extra-virgin, teaching consumers — and the marketplace — what makes high-quality olive oil. Last year, Pasquali helped build an olive oil tasting program at the Culinary Institute of America in California’s Napa Valley. An international organization, 3E, has created a “super-premium” category for extra-virgin oils that meet exacting standards of production, milling and storage. At the “Beyond Extra Virgin” conference this summer in Cordoba, Spain, the executive director of the International Olive Council, the guardian of the current extra-virgin standard, acknowledged that better label information should be a “priority for the sector.”

New students of olive oil often believe the product was better before the sector industrialized. But extra-virgin oil is, in fact, a 20th-century invention. New technology allowed for faster picking and pressing and, therefore, fresher oil. Modern storage techniques eliminated exposure to heat and light, two factors that lead to rancidity. Indeed, the European Parliament invented the term “extra-virgin” only in 1960. Many Americans believe it refers to the first pressing of the olives, but in fact it’s a baseline standard that embraces any oil made by solely mechanical means, instead of chemical treatment, and with less than 0.8 percent of free acidity, a laboratory measurement of rancidity. (Formerly, the limit was 1 percent.) Extra-virgin oils also are forbidden to have “disgusting odors such as rancidity, putridity, smoke, mold and olive fly.”

Beyond extra virgin: New standard aims to guarantee quality in olive oil
(From Paolo Pasquali/ ) – Paolo Pasquali’s Villa Campestri “olive oil resort” in Italy includes an oleoteca, or tasting room.

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“Extra-virgin just means it’s free of defects,” said Greg Drescher, executive director of strategic initiatives at the Napa CIA. “Can you imagine a stamp of approval in the wine industry that says it’s good enough because it’s not defective?”

The popularity of the Mediterranean diet in the 1990s was a boon to the olive oil industry. But olive oil fraud was also on the rise, according to a forthcoming book, “Extra Virginity,” by Tom Mueller (Norton, 2011). Generous government subsidies encouraged farmers and corporations to overstate their production figures and to make up the difference with inferior olive oil or even seed oils. Americans aren’t the only consumers who are cheated. “There is no difference between Tuscany and the United States,” said Pasquali, who takes his own olive oil with him to local restaurants. “We’re all in the same boat.”

Rampant fraud makes it difficult for high-quality producers to compete. But critics say the extra-virgin standard fails even the market of legitimate oils. The minimum sensory and chemical requirements admit a huge range of oils. Some are perfectly fine. Others are extraordinary. “But as a consumer, it’s impossible to look at a shelf of bottles and be able to guess which is which,” said Drescher.

3E (pronounced “tray ay” because it’s Italian), an international organization, is trying to change that with the debut of its “super-premium” category. The group gives that stamp of approval to 21 producers, including Pasquali’s Villa Campestri and McEvoy Ranch, in Marin County, Calif. To receive the 3E certification, oil must pass rigorous chemical and sensory analyses. (Where extra-virgin allows oils with 0.8 percent free acidity, for example, 3E allows just 0.3 percent.)

Producers also must submit documentation about cultivation, milling and storage practices and on-site inspections. The aim is to certify the oil in a particular bottle and not — as is done for, say, Burgundy and Bordeaux wines — the estate. So a producer’s oil might make the cut one year but not the next. Super-premium olive oils cost far more than the supermarket stuff. Half-liter bottles run between $30 and $55.

The new category offers particular opportunities for small California olive oil producers, which have difficulty competing with the scale and reach of their European competitors. California producers provide about 1 percent of the olive oil consumed in the United States; over time, they aim to grow that to 10 percent. “We see this as an opportunity to set our oil apart,” said Jeff Creque, McEvoy’s mill supervisor.

McEvoy’s 3E oil is available at the Flavor Bar at the CIA in Napa. Guests pay $15 to watch a video presentation that explains how super-premium olive oil differs from plain old extra-virgin. Then they taste: chickpeas, shredded cabbage and chocolate custard with marmalade, each paired with a super-premium oil.

As at Villa Campestri, the CIA also offers an olive oil menu in its restaurant, which employs Pasquali’s patented olive oil dispenser called OliveToLive. The shiny copper console keeps three oils under a layer of nitrogen gas — safe from heat and light — until the moment they are poured into small glass flasks and served.

The contraption, says Bill Briwa, a CIA chef-instructor, allows consumers to taste the variety of flavors in an extra-virgin oil that’s as fresh as if it had just been pressed. Since the CIA’s olive oil tasting program launched in February 2010, 3,500 visitors have sampled olive oils at the Flavor Bar or in its restaurant.

Educating consumers about peppery, grassy or fruity notes is fun. But freshness is the simplest and most compelling way to illustrate the difference between excellent and run-of-the-mill extra-virgin olive oils, says Luanne O’Loughlin, manager of Olio2Go, an online olive oil market based in Fairfax that sells about 75 varieties (including a spicy, fruity, 3E-approved Tuscan estate oil, La Poderina Toscana).

“Without tasting a good and a mediocre oil side by side, it is very hard to convince someone. Freshness is a concept they can grasp,” O’Loughlin said. It is also essential, she added, for reaping the health benefits of olive oil. Older, rancid oils lack not only vitality and flavor but also antioxidants, which are believed to protect against some cancers, heart disease and other chronic ailments.

Ultra-fresh oil is what brought the CIA’s Briwa to his olive oil “aha” moment. It happened about 10 years ago, when the culinary academy was given an olive press by a local producer. The oil straight from the press tasted “pure, unsullied, like sunlight,” he remembers. It was completely different from the oil served with bread he had tasted at Napa restaurants.

Still, even Briwa, an avid crusader, knows it will be difficult to reeducate the American public. “There are some consumers who get it. They’ve had their epiphany here or somewhere in Tuscany,” he said. But for the rest, it’s a challenge. “The question is: How do you make someone have an epiphany?”

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Posted on May 14, 2012 by Robert Jaye
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“Upgrade” Your Diet With Olive Oil

Upgrade’ Your Diet with Olive Oil
By Elena Paravantes
Olive Oil Times Health Editor | Reporting from Athens

Olive oil is known as a healthy fat because it is an excellent source of the “good” fats, the monounsaturated fatty acids that have been shown to lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and protect from heart disease. But it’s more than just healthy fats.

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Olive oil contains specific fatty acids as well as polyphenols, compounds with antioxidant activity. These components of olive oil interact with other nutrients and increase the nutritional value of a meal.
We know that the presence of fat increases the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, but what about antioxidants?

A number of studies for example, have shown that consumption of tomatoes that have been cooked with olive oil improves their antioxidant activity. This was not observed using other types of oil.

Other research shows that combining olive oil with fatty fish may be beneficial for your arteries. Norwegian researchers observed that when omega-3 rich fish oil such as the type you find in sardines, anchovies or salmon was combined with extra virgin olive oil it prevented the hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis) to a greater extent than each of these foods alone.

It is important therefore, to view olive oil not only as an individual ingredient but also as a component of the diet that enhances the nutritional value of other foods.