Regular consumption of the modern Western diet is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Whereas those who consume traditional diets are protected from circulatory problems. The Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet of the indigenous people of the Mediterranean areas of Southern Italy, France and Greece. This diet has been extensively studied and evidence suggests that it is particularly cardioprotective.
Research suggests that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. One component of the Mediterranean diet that is thought to provide at least some of this protection is olive oil. Studies show that olive oil can lower blood cholesterol levels by around 10 %, and in particular, can cause reductions in low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and lipoprotein(a), two of the lipoproteins associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Traditionally olive oil is made by simply mechanically pressing the olives and extracting the oil that drips off. This unfiltered, unprocessed ‘extra virgin’ oil contains small particles of olives. This olive particulate mixture is beneficial because olives contain powerful plant antioxidants. These antioxidants prevent oxidative stress in humans, and this in turn protects the artery linings from the development of endothelial dysfunction.
Filtered Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Most of the extra virgin olive oil that is available commercially is filtered. In this process the oil is still machine pressed to extract the oil, but them the larger particles of olive are removed by filtration. This removes some of the antioxidants from the oil, and although it is still beneficial, it is not as beneficial as unfiltered varieties. Without the olive particles olive oil has no health properties whatsoever and is just like any other monounsaturated oil.
Refined Olive Oil
Because mechanical pressing is inefficient, manufacturers of oil have found a way to increase the oil yield by using high temperature, pressures and solvents to extract the oil from the olives. In this process the fatty acids in the oils are often damaged and changed structurally. Removal of all of the antioxidants is also part of this process as this produces an almost odourless, colourless oil that is commercially more profitable.
Refined Olive Oil And Health
While extra virgin (mechanically pressed) olive oil, be it filtered or unfiltered, is beneficial to the health, the refined variant is not. Regular consumption of any refined deodorised oil is harmful to the health and may significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. For this reason, only olive oils that states ‘extra virgin’ on the label, and which has been extracted only my mechanical press should be considered as part of a healthy diet.