Extra Virgin Olive Oil- Oleocanthal, The Secret Behind the Mediterranean Diet

Have you ever wondered what is the Mediterranean diet secret? Can a single, very simple ingredient make the difference for millions of people? The answer is Yes and the spotlight is on extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), which is the beating heart of the Mediterranean diet. Associated with multiple health benefits like longevity, better heart health, and the prevention of chronic diseases, EVOO brings magic to our cocking but is the oleocanthal that acts as the powerhouse of wellbeing.

In the Mediterranean diet, the one ingredient you cannot miss is extra virgin olive oil, used generously for preparing and enhancing a variety of dishes. Each variation of the Mediterranean diet, irrespective of the region, ranks EVOO high on its staples list due to the belief in its health-positive attributes, and i

Oleocanthal- Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Since its identification in 1993, oleocanthal has emerged as one of the most extensively researched polyphenols present in extra virgin olive oil. This unique organic compound is exclusive to extra virgin olive oil among edible oils, and scientific investigations have linked it to beneficial effects on the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and various chronic inflammatory conditions.

Oleocanthal belongs to the group of monophenolic secoiridoids, a category of antioxidants found in certain plant-based foods. This rare polyphenol shares structural similarities with ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug renowned for its pain-relieving, fever-reducing, and anti-inflammatory properties. In typical Mediterranean diets, individuals are estimated to consume 25 to 30 milliliters of extra virgin olive oil daily, translating to a daily oleocanthal intake ranging between 6.5 and 19.6 milligrams. To put this into perspective, a dosage of 10 milligrams of oleocanthal is considered low when compared to ibuprofen.

Oleocanthal exerts its anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase, responsible for the formation of prostanoids, signaling molecules that induce inflammation. Consequently, the consumption of extra virgin olive oil rich in oleocanthal has been correlated with positive outcomes in various inflammation-related chronic diseases.

Over the years, extensive research has made it evident that the Mediterranean diet, with EVOO as its central component, offers increased lifespan, strengthened heart health, and aid in weight loss. The high content of monounsaturated fats in EVOO, renowned for their heart health benefits, its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, all contribute to its health benefaction.

A compilation of study results showed the impacts of olive oil and Mediterranean diets on several diseases including coronary heart disease, cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, cancer, and inflammatory disorders, highlighting EVOO’s role in preventing and managing numerous health conditions.

For seven consecutive years, the Mediterranean diet bagged the title of the best overall diet, emphasising the usage of ingredients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and, of course, olive oil.

The health benefits of oleocanthal are predominantly linked to its anti-inflammatory properties, with research by Beauchamp and a team revealing its potency slightly surpassing that of ibuprofen.

Studies indicate that the concentration of oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil ranges from approximately 284 to 711 milligrams per kilogram. In typical Mediterranean diets, individuals are estimated to intake 25 to 30 milliliters of extra virgin olive oil daily, resulting in a daily oleocanthal consumption ranging from 6.5 to 19.6 milligrams. For comparison, a dosage of 10 milligrams of oleocanthal is considered a low dose of ibuprofen.

The anti-inflammatory effects of oleocanthal stem from its capability to inhibit an enzyme known as cyclooxygenase, responsible for the formation of prostanoids—substances that induce inflammation. Consequently, the consumption of extra virgin olive oil rich in oleocanthal has been linked to favorable outcomes in various inflammation-related chronic diseases.

What Makes Extra Virgin Olive Oil Worth Buying

Despite the lack of a hard and fast rule on how much of EVOO to consume, a stroll in the Mediterranean countries will show you that they take the ‘liberal usage’ quite seriously. There isn’t an imposed limit on fat calories for participants of the Mediterranean diet, which brings a degree of flexibility to EVOO consumption.

Extra virgin olive oil stands out for its high content of monounsaturated fats and the presence of nutritional components like polyphenols. It’s believed that these constituents contribute enormously to the protective effects of the Mediterranean diet against several chronic and inflammatory diseases.

Recent research shows that a Mediterranean diet, which features EVOO, can reduce heart disease risk in women by almost 25%. Besides, another study found a correlation between high adherence to the Mediterranean diet and longer telomeres, the indicators of ageing and longevity.

Wrapping it up

To wrap it up, it’s apparent that EVOO is more than just an ingredient; it’s the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. Its extensive usage, evidence-backed health benefits, and flexible consumption norms make EVOO a crucial player in the Mediterranean diet’s reputation as one of the world’s healthiest dietary patterns. The evidence supports EVOO’s vital role in promoting heart health, preventing chronic diseases, and supporting longevity and weight management.

There are three key positive sensory characteristics that stand out: fruity, bitter, and pungent. The bitterness in extra virgin olive oil is attributed to the presence of oleocanthal. Additionally, oleocanthal is the exclusive source of the oil’s pungency, which manifests as a distinct burning sensation at the back of the throat.

This sensation, induced by oleocanthal, is experienced in the throat rather than the mouth. The reason lies in the mediation of this sensation by TRPA1 ion channel receptors, which are situated in the throat, nasal cavity, and other parts of the body—excluding the mouth.

The Mediterranean diet’s secret indeed lies in the abundance of the magical EVOO, transforming it from a diet into a lifestyle choice that has withstood the test of time and scrutinization.

It’s safe to say that Extra Virgin Olive Oil isn’t just a component; it’s the ‘silent hero’ of the Mediterranean diet.

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Picture by Handmade in Britain Olive Oil Bottle With Landscape Painting by Helen Rebecca Ceramics Handmade in Britain

Food Editor
Food Editor
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