Vegetables Fried in Extra Virgin Olive Oil More Nutritionally Beneficial than Boiled

A new study carried out by the University of Granada revealed that frying vegetables typical to the Mediterranean diet in EVOO, as opposed to boiling, is a much better method of cooking in terms of nutrient value.

There has been much debate on the pros and cons of different cooking methods for vegetables and how certain cooking techniques affect phenolic compounds.

This latest study aimed to put domestic cooking techniques to the test and determine how they affect or enhance the antioxidant qualities as well as the quantities of phenolic compounds found in a Spanish Mediterranean diet which typically contains high volumes of potato, pumpkin, eggplant and tomato.

The Mediterranean diet in Spain is also characterized by high consumption of EVOO which, alongside vegetables, are sources of certain compounds that have been linked to the prevention of chronic degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes and macular degeneration, a condition that causes blindness.
SEE MORE: The Health Benefits of Olive Oil
During the study three cooking methods were employed; 120 gram cubes of the vegetables were fried in EVOO, or boiled in water, or boiled in a mix of water and EVOO.

All tests were carried out under controls with close analysis of the cooking methods and storage of the vegetables in optimum conditions so as to accurately measure factors like moisture, fat, dry matter, phenol content and antioxidant capacity, said the university.

In what they described as a “breakthrough in food science,” the researchers found frying in EVOO produced higher levels of natural phenols.

Professor Cristina Samaniego Sanchez
“While comparing the total phenol content of the fresh vegetables, we found both increases and decreases in their levels, depending on the cooking method employed,” said one of the authors of the work, Professor Cristina Samaniego Sanchez.

“As a heat transfer medium, the EVOO increases the amount of phenols in the vegetables, in contrast with other methods such as boiling, which use a water-based heat transfer medium.”

According to the results of the study, the overall quality of the vegetables was significantly improved when fried in EVOO because the produce becomes enriched with EVOO phenols transferred from the oil.

“We conclude that frying in EVOO was the technique with the highest associated increases of phenols and can therefore be considered an improvement in the cooking process, although it also increases the calorie density of the food because of the amount of oil absorbed,” Sanchez added.

“If the concentration of phenols found in the raw ingredients is high to start with, the overall concentration level is further increased if EVOO is employed during the cooking process, while boiling does not significantly affect the concentration levels.” Boiling is recommended if the vegetables are to be consumed together with the cooking medium (i.e. the water).

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Olive Oil-Enriched Diet During Pregnancy Can Benefit the Unborn Through Adulthood

A recent study has shown that a diet rich in olive oil has a positive effect on the development of the unborn child and may also affect her adult life.

“During the gestation, there is a great incorporation of fatty acids into the fetal brain, in order to maintain the adequate development,” explained one of the authors of the study, Prof. Marilise Escobar Burger. “Since olive oil is consumed in the Mediterranean diet with great results, the idea was that the olive oil, with a favorable fatty acids profile, could be good as well in the prenatal period.”

The joint study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology of the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM) and from the Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences of the University of Milan (DiSFeB).

Olive oil during perinatal period seems to be able to prevent oxidative damage and improve the expression of protective neurotrophins in the adult brain.
– Camila Simonetti Pase, Federal University of Santa Maria
The researchers evaluated the influence of different diets on rodent pups: a group of female rats received a diet enriched with 20 percent olive oil (OOED) and one group was subjected to a standard diet (CD). They monitored their pups at various times — pregnancy, lactation, and after weaning until the pups’ adulthood — and measured oxidative and molecular brain parameters and weight during their lives, achieving very positive results for levels of prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.

At adulthood, animals in the group OOED showed less brain lipid peroxidation and higher levels of glutathione sulfhydryl groups in the prefrontal cortex and lower brain levels of reactive species in the hippocampus.

Interestingly, the group of animals whose diet was changed from a CD to OOED 21 days after birth showed a greater weight than the group that remained the same original diet (OOED) to adulthood.

It was also interesting that the consumption of OOED during pregnancy and lactation significantly increased the prefrontal cortex expression of trophic molecules that play an important role in neuronal plasticity and cognitive function.

“The new fact about this study is that olive oil diet during perinatal period seems to be able to prevent oxidative damage and improve the expression of protective neurotrophins in the adult brain,” researcher Camila Simonetti Pase (UFSM) explained. “The neurotrophins evaluated in our work (BDNF and FGF-2),” added Verônica Tironi Dias, are related to cellular survival, plasticity and protection from neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases.”

The idea of the study and the joint collaboration started when Dr. Angélica Martelli Teixeira, who used to work with fatty acids in Brazil, got in touch with the Italian researchers of the University of Milan during an exchange program in Italy for her PhD.

Marco Andrea Riva works in a laboratory dedicated to psychiatric disorders and factors that may affect the risk of developing them in the pre- and perinatal period. “There is a clear evidence that exposure to stress makes the individual more vulnerable and more susceptible to develop diseases, such as depression or schizophrenia, later in life especially if they are exposed to stressful events during early life. Different factors can affect brain structure and function, not only those related to the environment but also nutritional elements,” he explained.

The study adds to a body of research that show how diets rich or poor in fats or in sugar may have effects on the mechanisms of brain function and functional recovery after traumatic injuries.

“This research supports the evidence that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, already during the prenatal period, make the brain more plastic, more dynamic and therefore, probably, more resistant to any negative environmental stresses in adult life,” Prof. Riva concluded.

The results open a line of pioneering research on feeding and adjuvant therapeutic strategies and on the potential of healthy eating habits to prevent neonatal conditions and their influence on adult life.

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How EVOO Helps Prevent Colon Cancer

EVOO is an ally of our wellness, and over the years a number of studies have established and confirmed the importance of its daily consumption. There is still, however, much to discover about the mechanisms through which these healthy actions are carried out.

Researchers directed by Prof. Mauro Maccarrone from the University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome and Dr. Claudio D’Addario from University of Teramo have been working in this direction, revealing how certain elements abundant in high quality extra virgin olive oil function to protect from colon cancer. The research conducted in collaboration with the University of Camerino, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the Santa Lucia Foundation IRCCS in Rome, reveals new details on the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil.

The Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, despite its recent foundation, today has become a center of excellence. I reached the kind Mauro Maccarrone, professor in Biochemistry and dean of the Bachelor’s Degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition, at his studio in the heart of the extended University area in the southern sector of Rome, to discuss his study.

First of all I asked him how his research began.

“The basic idea was to understand if EVOO — conerstone of the Mediterranean diet with various beneficial properties — had some ingredients with active properties verifiable on a strictly scientific basis,” he explained. “We found that the hydroxytyrosol — a component of olive oil — is successful in awakening the “sentinels” that allow our body, particularly in the intestine, to defend us from some cancers, such as colorectal cancer.

“Therefore, EVOO contains a substance that can improve our ability to ward off cancer, acting as a so-called ‘tumor suppressor’.” He further explained that this occurs through a mechanism called ‘epigenetic’, by which olive oil changes some of our genes, not breaking them up or changing them, but making them more or less readable — a bit as if it opened an instruction manual on one page rather than another, in this way, protecting us from the onset of tumors.

And what were your discoveries?

“The primary news is the fact that we have identified that the target of hydroxytyrosol is type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1)” (which carries this name because it also responds to plant derivatives present in hashish and marijuana, in substance the cannabinoids). “The second relevant factor,” Maccarrone continued, “concerns the way in which the hydroxytyrosol is able to activate CB1 to a larger extent in the cells, thanks to its epigenetic control of CB1 gene.”

At this point, it is important to know that the molecules behind the effects of olive oil have various activities and biological implications and they are connected, for example, to the haphazardness of soft drugs since the latter alter metabolism and action of their endogenous counterparts (so-called “endocannabinoids”).

These findings have definitely influenced the definition of EVOO quality, showing the benefits of choosing one richer in this substance in respect to a poor quality olive oil. “In this way,” Maccarrone said, “we can determine whether a typical certified product has different quality and quantity of these active components compared to a low quality and low price olive oil that you can find in the supermarket.”

Prof. Maccarrone said he is conducting research in this context (and again in collaboration with Santa Lucia Foundation IRCCS, Dr. Cinzia Rapino from University of Teramo and Prof. Giovanni Pacioni from University of L’Aquila) also on Tuber melanosporum, the black truffle from Abruzzo. Another element of the endocannabinoids (called “anandamide”, from the Sanskrit word ananda for inner bliss) is present in this type of truffle, which can give particular pleasure in consumption, making the animal that eats it a faithful customer that comes back for more. The curious thing is that breast milk contains the same substance. Take it out of the milk and babies like it less, which would naturally affect growth and development.

“So it is interesting to note how these molecules through which the oil protects us and have many implications in the development of tumors in various areas of our body, ultimately also serve as a reward and that nature used them to stimulate babies to feed,” Maccarrone considered.

Returning to experiences with EVOO, Maccarrone said his family has always bought the EVOO from local producers in Abruzzo, where he was born. “Sometimes,” he said, “I wonder how it is possible that some extra virgin olive oils are so low priced. They clearly lack in quality! This must serve as a warning for consumers since true quality undoubtedly implies an additional cost, which should not be exaggerated but adequate.

“Appreciating the true value of a genuine product. Demonstrating it scientifically has proved to be the best incentive both for consumers’ enjoyment, as for producers to go more and more in the direction of achieving high-quality EVOO production.”

Further scientific support to state with certainty that higher quality olive oil is better for us, and demanding quality helps us keep healthy.

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Mediterranean Diet Protective Against Obesity in Children

File this under “no surprise:” A recent study from eight European countries has shown evidence that children who consume a Mediterranean diet may be 15 percent less likely to be overweight or obese.

The results of the study conducted by Dr. Gianluca Tognon from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden were first presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Sofia, Bulgaria last June.

Researchers examined data gathered from the IDEFICS study, a European project that lasted from September 2006 to February 2012 with the goal of assessing the problem of obesity in children.

Data from IDEFICS included height, weight, body fat percentage and waist circumference from children in Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Estonia and Sweden. In relation to the children’s diets, parents filled out a questionnaire supplied from IDEFICS that defined the frequency with which 43 common foods were consumed. Dr. Tongon’s team gathered additional dietary data by interviewing a sample of parents from the IDEFICS study.

Children were then scored on their adherence to foods considered to be staples of a Mediterranean diet, including fish, vegetables, fruits, cereal grains and nuts. A single point was given for every Mediterranean food group eaten, and another point was given if children had a low intake of foods not considered typical of the Mediterranean diet like meat and dairy.

The results of Dr. Tognon’s study showed that children with a higher number of points were 10 to 15 percent less likely to be overweight or obese compared to children with a lower number of points. These children were also less likely to go through major changes on the BMI scale or gain body fat.

The study also showed that Italian children were the most likely to consume a Mediterranean diet and in Sweden, where the children had the highest frequencies of intakes of
cereal grains, fruit, nuts and vegetables.

“The take home message,” Dr. Tognon said, “is that there is a need to recommend to children a dietary pattern, particularly in the Mediterranean countries where people might still be convinced that they are following a diet like this, which is often not true anymore.”

Mediterranean diet, overweight and body composition in children from eight European countries: Cross-sectional and prospective results from the IDEFICS study

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Olive Oil Seen as a Treatment for Heart Failure

While diet and nutrition are often discussed in relation to prevention of chronic disease, occasionally certain foods are seen as a treatment as well. A new study by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine are finding that a certain fat found in olive oil may be beneficial in individuals with heart failure.

Heart failure is a condition that develops over time where the heart becomes weaker and cannot pump enough blood, or with enough force, to the rest of the body. Treatment usually means controlling and stopping the condition from getting worse.

According to this study, a weakened heart is unable to store and process fats to use for fuel, leaving it with less energy. This may result in production of toxic intermediary byproducts that further contribute to heart disease.
SEE MORE: The Health Benefits of Olive oil
E. Douglas Lewandowski, director of the UIC Center for Cardiovascular Research, and his team wanted to examine how healthy and diseased hearts reacted to oleate (a fat in olive oil ) and palmitate (a fat found in palm oil used in many processed foods as well as cheeses and meats).

The researchers looked at how the hearts of rats were beating when they were given the two different types of fat and found that with oleate there was an immediate improvement in how the hearts contracted and pumped blood, as opposed to palmitate where fat metabolism was imbalanced, cells struggled to access fuel and there was also a rise in toxic fatty byproducts.

In addition, it was observed that oleate also increased the activation of several genes for enzymes that metabolize fat. Lewandowski said it was an exciting finding that beneficial gene expression can be restored, with a more balanced fat metabolism and a reduction of toxic fat metabolites, just by supplying hearts with oleate.

It is well established that olive oil has a protective effect. The discovery that it may be able to influence the heart positively, even after the appearance of disease, makes it important not only to prevention but a promising contributor to a treatment regimen too.

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Breakfast with High-Phenol EVOO Reduces Inflammation Linked to Diabetes, Heart Disease

A new study published in Food Chemistry shows that adding phenol-rich olive oil to breakfast successfully lowers the inflammation linked to metabolic syndrome.

Add Olive Oil to Vegetables to Lower Blood Pressure
Inflammation is associated with metabolic syndrome, an increasingly common condition characterized by the presence of three of the following pathologies in an individual: obesity (particularly abdominal fat), high blood pressure, a low level of “good” HDL cholesterol, high fasting blood sugar and a high level of triglycerides. Left untreated, metabolic syndrome can trigger diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Forty-nine patients with metabolic syndrome added 40 ml of high-, medium- or low-phenol virgin olive oil to their breakfast. The high-phenol olive oil (398 parts per million) breakfast neutralized pro-inflammatory gene expression in patients while reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines in blood plasma. The result was an overall lower level of post-meal inflammation.

Phenols — phytochemicals found in plant-based foods such as olives, coffee, tea, and chocolate — have been enjoying the nutritional limelight as an increasing number of health-related benefits are revealed. While the lion’s share of studies to date focus on their anti-oxidant benefits, growing evidence shows that phenols also reduce inflammation.

Chronic low-grade inflammation precedes and predicts the onset of diabetes in adults with metabolic syndrome and researchers believe it plays a similar role in cardiovascular disease. It is estimated that over 30 percent of all adults in the USA have metabolic syndrome, a phenomenon seen in another western countries and quickly spreading to developing countries including India, China and Brazil.

This study adds valuable information on understanding how phenols reduce inflammation by modulating cell signaling pathways and suggests that a breakfast that includes phenol-rich olive oil helps alleviate inflammation associated with metabolic syndrome and related diseases.

Food Chemistry
Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome

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Add Olive Oil to Vegetables to Lower Blood Pressure

One of the main characteristics of the Mediterranean diet is the frequency of vegetable-rich meals and salads cooked in plenty of olive oil. And while we know that the addition of olive oil to vegetables can increase the absorption of vitamins and antioxidants, it appears that this powerful combination has another significant health effect: it may protect from high blood pressure.

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A new study published in the journal PNAS, suggests that an eating pattern that combines unsaturated fats (such as olive oil) with specific vegetables rich in in nitrite and nitrates can protect from hypertension. Nitrite rich vegetables are mainly green leafy types such as spinach, wild greens, and root vegetables. These vegetables are consumed on a daily basis within a Mediterranean diet and always with olive oil. Researchers found that when these two foods are combined you have the formation of nitro fatty acids.

For this study, mice were used to examine how nitro fatty acids control blood pressure by inhibiting an enzyme that is known to regulate blood pressure.

The results showed that the mice genetically engineered not to be reactive to this enzyme process had no change in blood pressure, while in normal mice the nitro fatty acids lowered the blood pressure.

The researchers concluded that the common combination of unsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil with these vegetables contributes to the protective action of the Mediterranean diet.

In another study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers were able to demonstrate by using mass spectrometry, that extra virgin olive oil as well as fresh olives are also a source of nitro fatty acids on their own, thus potentially contributing even more to the antihypertensive effect.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Protection from hypertension in mice by the Mediterranean diet is mediated by nitro fatty acid inhibition of soluble epoxide hydrolase
PLOS One: Olives and Olive Oil Are Sources of Electrophilic Fatty Acid Nitroalkenes

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Beauty, Inside and Out

Last month 79-year-old actress Sophia Loren stole the show at Cannes when she was honored for her work in The Human Voice (La voce umana), a short film directed by her son, Edoardo Ponti.

Audiences around the world watched in awe as the face of this exceedingly beautiful woman filled our screens yet again. Oh, to look that good at any age.

While Loren is blessed with legendary bone structure she also uses olive oil as part of her daily beauty routine both internally and externally.

Her Mediterranean diet has always ensured that she includes at least two tablespoons of EVOO in her food intake but the famous beauty has also been known to rub a small amount into her skin to keep her skin moisturized.

She also adds a couple of capfuls into a hot bath for a skin-nourishing soak.

American actress and healthy guru Gwyneth Paltrow also promotes the internal and external use of olive oil.

Her 2013 cookbook It’s all Good uses EVOO in a significant proportion of her recipes.

On her much talked about website Goop, Paltrow includes an interview with Dr. Nicholas Perricone who advises: “The most powerful member of the Olive Oil Polyphenol group is Hydroxytyrosol. Extremely rare, and effective in even small concentrations, this super antioxidant, anti-inflammatory has been proven to be effective in improving general health and appearance.”

And the secret of Paltrow long silky tresses: “I often recommend that people use a half cup of olive oil and work it through dry hair, concentrating on the driest parts, combing it through but avoiding the roots.”

For those interested in DIY hair-masks these can be found in abundance on the internet and are as simple as mixing olive oil with a few drops of essential oil. Perfect for a day at home when you can really let the mixture sink in.

Organic olive oil producer Bellucci Premium also lists ways that olive oil consumption can aid beauty. “For your skin, olive oil has the same anti-inflammatory properties as ibuprofen, which can reduce the redness and prominence of acne, stretch marks, and other skin conditions. Studies also say that olive oil is rich in antioxidants, which can help lower the risks of melanoma, a harmful type of skin cancer.”

So beauty may come from the inside, but it seems a few of the external applications of olive oil as a beauty aid before your next close up can’t hurt either.

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Add Olive Oil to Vegetables to Lower Blood Pressure

One of the main characteristics of the Mediterranean diet is the frequency of vegetable-rich meals and salads cooked in plenty of olive oil. And while we know that the addition of olive oil to vegetables can increase the absorption of vitamins and antioxidants, it appears that this powerful combination has another significant health effect: it may protect from high blood pressure.

A new study published in the journal PNAS, suggests that an eating pattern that combines unsaturated fats (such as olive oil) with specific vegetables rich in in nitrite and nitrates can protect from hypertension. Nitrite rich vegetables are mainly green leafy types such as spinach, wild greens, and root vegetables. These vegetables are consumed on a daily basis within aMediterranean diet and always with olive oil. Researchers found that when these two foods are combined you have the formation of nitro fatty acids.

For this study, mice were used to examine how nitro fatty acids control blood pressure by inhibiting an enzyme that is known to regulate blood pressure.

The results showed that the mice genetically engineered not to be reactive to this enzyme process had no change in blood pressure, while in normal mice the nitro fatty acids lowered the blood pressure.

The researchers concluded that the common combination of unsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil with these vegetables contributes to the protective action of the Mediterranean diet.

In another study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers were able to demonstrate by using mass spectrometry, that extra virgin olive oil as well as fresh olives are also a source of nitro fatty acids on their own, thus potentially contributing even more to the antihypertensive effect.


 

 

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A ‘Model Diet’ for Prevention of Alzheimer’s

In a recent narrative review article, Italian researchers from the University of Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, suggest that the Mediterranean diet may be the model diet to follow to slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases with age, and clearly there is a need to slow onset of Alzheimer’s disease as life expectancy continues to rise. In 2013, in the United States, 5 million of the total 5.2 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease were over the age of 65. These numbers are estimated to rise to 13.8 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

In the absence of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, making dietary and lifestyle changes may be an effective approach to delay its onset. However, these changes need to be made at an early age given that the asymptomatic phase of Alzheimer’s disease may be present for more than twenty years before symptoms of this debilitating disease appear.

To enable early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, in 2011 the National Institute of Aging and Alzheimer’s Association revised diagnosis criteria used since 1984. Although not standardized for clinical diagnosis, the proposed three stages include: preclinical Alzheimer’s disease; mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease; and dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease.

Although individual nutrients and foods that makeup the Mediterranean diet are known to protect against cognitive decline, higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet as a whole appears to slow cognitive decline that ultimately leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Published in the April 2014 issue of Current Nutrition Reports, the review article reports that higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet may also lower risk of frailty, a physical condition associated with age and increased risk of cognitive decline.

Furthermore, the article found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet may be beneficial at all stages of Alzheimer’s disease because it slows cognitive decline; delays progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease; and also reduces risk of death from Alzheimer’s disease.

Of the two randomized clinical trials conducted on Mediterranean diet, the 6.5-year follow-up PREDIMED-NAVARRA study reported that supplementing the Mediterranean diet with extra-virgin olive oil or mixed nuts enhanced cognition, while the shorter, ten-day follow-up study reported inconsistent results. Another benefit of following the Mediterranean diet, according to some studies, is a reduction in frailty and an increase in physical activity in older adults

Among other diets, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet or the DASH diet recommended for Americans who have hypertension, has also been found to be effective in slowing progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet recommends higher consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, fish, and poultry while limiting intake of red meat, salt and sweet foods and beverages. A number of population-based studies have also found that consumption of healthy diets based on dietary patterns similar to the Mediterranean and DASH diets, improved cognitive functions and lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Although more research in the form of randomized clinical trials is needed, most studies reviewed in this article suggest that adoption of the Mediterranean diet as a model diet in early to mid-life may be beneficial for delaying onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Two Tablespoons: FDA’s Take on the Benefits of Olive Oil

Nearly a decade ago, the Food and Drug Administration allowed a qualified health claim on food labels of olive oil in response to a petition filed by the North American Olive Oil Association. The stamp of approval in the form of the qualified health claim, and increased awareness of the benefits may explain the higher intake of olive oil by Americans in recent years.

The claim states that daily consumption of about 2 tablespoons, or 23 grams of olive oil, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The decision to allow the claim was made after the FDA found sufficient evidence to conclude that monounsaturated fatty acids, naturally present in olive oil, may prevent heart disease.
SEE MORE: Health Benefits of Olive Oil
The scientific literature reviewed by the FDA showed that replacing saturated fatty acids with monounsaturated fatty acids reduced levels of serum total cholesterol and serum LDL cholesterol, both of which are known to increase the risk of coronary heart disease. However, only some of the reviewed studies reported an increase in HDL-cholesterol which, as the “good” cholesterol, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease at high levels.

From their findings, the FDA determined that a minimum daily intake of 17.5 grams of monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil is needed to exert a positive effect on reduction of coronary heart disease.

With monounsaturated content of olive oil as high as 74 percent, only 23 grams of olive oil are needed to supply the required 17.5 grams of monounsaturated fatty acids. This amounts to 1.7 tablespoons of olive oil, which is conveyed as about 2 tablespoons every day in the qualified health claim.

For olive oil to help reduce the risk of heart disease, the claim further states that olive oil should replace an equivalent amount of saturated fat in the diet. Similarly, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) states that “Consuming less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids and replacing them with monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fatty acids is associated with low blood cholesterol levels, and therefore a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.”

In addition to monounsaturated fatty acids, the presence of antioxidants and vitamin E in olive oil are often associated as factors that may prevent heart disease, reports the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.

In the last cautionary statement that follows the initial health claim, it is clear that the FDA does not want you to go overboard and increase your intake of total fat. After all, olive oil is still a fat and provides the same amount of calories per gram as other dietary fats. Based on the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (Release 26), the recommended 23 grams of olive oil would contribute about 203 calories. To prevent an increase in calories from fat, olive oil should be used to replace, and not add to the other fats present in your diet.

More Americans recognize the health benefits of olive oil and have made it part of their diet. This is evident as olive oil consumption in the U.S. has seen a dramatic increase of 5 percent every year between 2008 and 2012, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission.

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Achieve Nutrient Adequacy by Following the Mediterranean Diet

Dependence on dietary supplements increases when diets fail to supply sufficient amounts of nutrients. Findings of a recent study published in the journal Nutrients reveals that inadequate nutrient intake stems from foods consumed in the Western diet. The authors stated that as more people replace their traditional diets with the low nutrient-dense Western diet, their needs for essential nutrients are not met. It is, therefore, not surprising that dietary supplements worth $96 billion were bought globally in 2012, with numbers estimated to increase to $104 billion in 2013, according to The Nutrition Business Journal.

In contrast, the authors of the article, “The Mediterranean Diet and Nutritional Adequacy: A Review,” reported that adequate nutrient needs can be achieved by adhering to the Mediterranean diet. The results, published earlier this year, are based on literature reviewed from MEDLINE (National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD, USA) spanning a 13 year period starting from 2000 through 2013.

The Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy and legumes is very different from the Western diet, which mainly consists of fast foods, soft drinks, red meat, processed meat, precooked foods, potatoes, eggs, sauces, sweets, and whole dairy. The study reports that iodine, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, selenium, vitamin C and folic acid were some of the essential nutrients lacking in subjects who regularly consumed the Western diet.

On the other hand, subjects who strictly followed the Mediterranean diet were more likely to meet their needs for all nutrients from their diet. This included sufficient intake of folic acid; vitamins A, B1, C and E; as well as minerals such as zinc, iodine, magnesium, iron and selenium. Consumption of the Mediterranean diet also increased intake of monounsaturated fatty acids but decreased energy intake from total and saturated fats. Although the amount of carbohydrates consumed by these subjects was low, their intake of fiber was high.

The trend of meeting nutrient needs was also observed in children between the ages of 6 to 14 who followed the Mediterranean diet. This included daily consumption of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, cheese or yogurt; cereal or grain-based and milk or other dairy product for breakfast.

In addition, adherence to the Mediterranean diet included intake of pasta or rice at least five times a week; fish and nuts 2 to 3 times a week and legumes once a week. The study reports that as compliance to the Mediterranean diet increased so did their intake of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and all vitamins except vitamin E.

The authors also found that the positive effects of the Mediterranean diet are reflected in increased plasma concentration of beta-carotene, folates, vitamin C, alpha-tocopherol and HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol.

Although the authors acknowledge that there were limitations to the study, it is clear that the Mediterranean diet enhances nutritional adequacy and may decrease dependence on dietary supplements. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet provides better dietary fat in the form of olive oil; has anti-inflammatory properties; and increases intake of antioxidants that are beneficial to health.

By SUKHSATEJ BATRA on February 20, 2014

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