As any Italian nonna will tell you, olive oil has all kinds of invaluable health benefits. And now the American Food and Drug Administration recognises it as having medicinal properties.
Research conducted in Italy has shown that some fats, including olive oil, are not just nutrients but also have extraordinary health benefits.
Olive oil’s optimal ratio between the essential fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3 means the precious oil is an invaluable ally in the prevention of bowel cancer, cardiovascular diseases and cognitive deficits typical of the elderly.
It also lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Freshly harvested olives ready to be pressed. Photo: Clare Speak/The Local
An FDA review showed that olive oil is the only natural edible oil to contain at least 70% of oleic acid per serving.
A study at the University of Bari in collaboration of AIRC (The Italian Association for Cancer Research) has shown that the absence of oleic acid in the diet, in certain conditions, can lead to inflammation that may be a precursor to bowel cancer.
And researchers at Sapienza University of Rome have associated the intake of extra virgin olive oil with a marked improvement in blood glucose levels after meals in healthy subjects.
The FDA has made a series of suggestions as to how this precious medicine should be taken, Italian media reports.
It suggests people consume two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil every day, which must be extra virgin oil, taken within 12/18 months of its extraction – which is from the date of bottling of the product according to Italian law.
Consumers are further advised to use olive oil to replace a similar amount of saturated fat in their diets and not to increase their total number of daily calories.
The advice says this means you’ll get at least 17.5 grams of oleic acid in addition to a good dose of vitamin E and polyphenols; in particular oleocanthal, tyrosol, hydroxytyrosol and oleacea.
The oil, which shouldn’t come into contact with oxygen, must be stored at a temperature of 14-18 degrees in opaque containers.
While this won’t be news to any Italian grandparents, it’s definitely a win for the country’s olive oil producers.
Italian agriculture group Coldiretti said the US was now the biggest market for olive oil after Italy and Spain.
“This news represents a further recognition of the positive health effects associated with the consumption of extra virgin olive oil” and complained that many countries “unfairly label olive oil as a food that’s hazardous to health.”
“Countries from the UK to Chile use red lights or black stamps to discourage the consumption of the staple of the Mediterranean diet, always considered an elixir of long life.”