Written by: Dr. Simon Poole
Olives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil are at the heart of the traditional Mediterranean way of life. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the main source of healthy fat and is ubiquitous in the diet. It is used as the cooking medium of choice and as a flavour and taste enhancer. It is present in the kitchen for everyday use and on the table as a dressing and condiment. The Mediterranean Diet, which has been shown to have so many health benefits has various regional variations. In Greek island communities there is much reliance on seafood, in Italy wholegrains are consumed in the form of pasta and breads and North African and Middle Eastern cuisine embraces different herbs and spices. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and olives products are ubiquitous in all these dishes. The Mediterranean region is synonymous with the cultivation and widespread use of olive products.
Studies in nutrition predominantly use observational data, which cannot imply causality as randomised controlled trials such as the Predimed study can. However, they can control for lifestyle and environmental factors, and there is now overwhelming consistent evidence from observational data of the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet with Extra Virgin Olive Oil in preventing many diseases and promoting good health.
The concept of wellness is even more difficult to measure and to quantify. Researchers from the University of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria showed that a diet rich in olive oil can protect from mental illness. The SUN study also showed significant improvements in parameters which may describe quality of life.1
Including the regular use of olives, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and other olive products as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle can make an important contribution to health and wellness. Advocates of lifestyle medicine can cite a broad range of evidence to encourage the enjoyment of olive products every day to protect from chronic disease and promote fitness and improved quality of life. The knowledge that this is a pleasurable and sustainable, evidence based way of living makes it all the more attractive.