In the 1930s comic strip "Popeye," Olive Oil was portrayed as a skinny weakling, a perpetual damsel in distress who couldn t survive without her Popeye coming to the rescue. But in the health world, olive oil is no nutritional weakling.
Besides being one of the best sources to go to for a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat - a key nutrient for lowering cholesterol levels - olive oil is something of a medical marvel. It s always been known as a healthy oil, but only recently have we come to know just what it is specifically about olive oil that makes it so darn healthy.
For starters, olive oil - particularly extra virgin olive oil - is very high in antioxidants, one in particular called DHPEA-EDA. When researchers exposed red blood cells under oxidative stress to this and other antioxidants, they found that the DHPEA-EDA provided the best "stress-alleviation," if you will, fighting off the free radicals to a greater extent than the three other antioxidant compounds used in the study.
Writing in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, the researchers say their findings give nutritionists the first glimpse of what makes olive oil so medically marvelous. But a new study linking extra virgin olive oil to Alzheimer s disease prevention suggests there s even more to olive oil than meets the eye.
It s called oleocanthal, and it s a natural compound found in rich supply in extra virgin olive oil. Some say oleocanthal is what gives olive oil its "peppery bite," but the only bite researchers were recently concerned with was whether it could take a bite out of Alzheimer s disease.
The answer? You bet it can!
Writing in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, researchers said the oleocanthal in olive oil binds to toxic proteins that clog the synapses on the hippocampus, which is the first sign of Alzheimer s disease onset. The hippocampus is the section of the brain that s most adversely affected by Alzheimer s disease.
Now, this study was not clinical, but researchers believe that future studies investigating olive oil s ties to Alzheimer s prevention will include humans. In the meantime, if history is any guide, it wouldn t be at all surprising if yet another study comes out pointing to yet another aspect of olive oil that makes it so medically marvelous.
It is generally recommended that people consume about two tablespoons worth of olive oil for maximum health benefit. And to reap the benefits of as many antioxidants as possible, purchase extra virgin olive oil, being sure to store it in an area that s not well lit. A study published in New Scientist found that extra virgin olive oils lost at least 30 percent of their antioxidant content after one year of storage in a well-lit area.