Olive oil as the centre of the Mediterranean Diet

Iva Marasović, mag.ing.techn.aliment.

By developing chemistry and by understanding the chemical processes in the human body, a new science is born – nutritionism. Thanks to nutritionism, we know today how nutrition affects our health. One of these studies was the Seven Countries Study (link to text), which proved that the Mediterranean diet helps prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Each of the Mediterranean countries differs according to some specificity in the traditional diet, but the link of all types of Mediterranean food is olive oil – as the main fat used. Looking at scientific observations from the first half of the 20th century about the Mediterranean nutrition, it is stated that “all food has been floating in olive oil” (Mediterranean Feast, Clifford A. Wright). However, the rate of cardiovascular diseases, like elevated cholesterol, heart attacks, raised blood pressure, etc. was quite low.

How does olive oil act to protect the organism from CVD?

One of the most common causes of many cardiovascular diseases is the so-called “bad” cholesterol or LDL (low density lipoprotein) that when accumulating in the blood vessels can cause diseases such as arterial hypertension, heart attack, stroke… In order to reduce it, people often eat non-fat food. However, olive oil contains 55-83% oleic acid (mono-unsaturated fatty acid) which has been shown to affect the overall cholesterol balance, reduces LDL cholesterol by removing it from the blood vessels and at the same time increasing the share of “good” HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein).
Although the population in the Mediterranean Basin has moved quite far from the traditional diet and “embraced” the Western way of life, due to the many benefits to health, extra virgin olive oil is again “in fashion”. You can enjoy extra virgin olive oil, not only because of its divine flavour, but also for its healthy effect. Scientists believe that eating only 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil is enough to prevent cardiovascular, as well as many other diseases.

(read more about other benefits of olive oil in the following article)

SOURCES

Mateljan G. (2015) The World’s Healthiest Foods: The Force For Change To Health-Promoting Foods and New Nutrient-Rich Cooking, 2. izd., SAD

Ruiz-Canela, M., Martínez-González, M. A., (2010) Olive oil in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, Maturitas

Wright, C. A. (1999) A Mediterranean Feast, William Morrow Cookbooks, SAD

Žanetić, M., Gugić, M. (2006) Zdrastvene vrijednosti maslinovog ulja, Pomologia Croatica 12