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Extra-Virgin Olive Oil-Could this be the healthiest Cooking Oil?


In recent times, much attention has been given to the potential health benefits of Extra virgin olive oil. Well, the list of potential health benefits keeps growing. A new study suggests that extra-virgin olive oil  may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s dementia and prevent memory loss too.

The study was published June 21 in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology

The researchers found that extra-virgin oil reduces the formation of plaques in the brain which are closely linked to dementia. The researchers deduced this from the impact extra-virgin olive oil had on mice that had features mimicking dementia.

Dementia is a chronic condition of memory impairment and cognitive decline. Based on estimates, it currently affects about 40 million persons worldwide. More than half of affected persons live in low and middle income countries. Although, limited data is available on the current prevalence of dementia in Nigeria, there are support groups and services for at risk.

How does extra-virgin olive oil prevent dementia?

According to the authors, it prevents inflammation and initiates the clearing of unwanted cells in the brain.  These significantly improve brain functioning and reduces memory impairment.


What You should know about Extra-virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is the best type of olive oil in the market. It is usually golden in colour and sold in tinted glass bottles to protect it from sunlight. Its lovely aroma and nutritive values make it an ideal part of meals.

This unrefined oil is the first liquid extract of olives. Apart from extra-virgin oil, virgin oil and light oil can be extracted from olives. Although, these forms of olive oil are cheaper, they are not as healthy as extra-virgin oil.

According to nutritionists, 100 grams of olive oil contains:

  •     Saturated Fat: 13.8%.
  •     Monounsaturated Fat: 73%.
  •     Omega-6: 9.7%.
  •     Omega-3: 0.76%.
  •     Vitamin E: 72% of the recommended daily allowance
  •     Vitamin K: 75% of the recommended daily allowance

So, extra-virgin oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and vitamins..

What are the other health benefits of Extra-virgin oil? There are several claims on the possible health benefits of olive oil. However, only few have been backed up by data such as :

  • Lowering of cholesterol levels
  • Blood pressure control
  • Prevention of Heart diseases and stroke
  • Reduces risk of Cancer

Does extra-virgin olive oil have any advantages over other oils?

Yes. It is 100% natural. No chemicals or preservatives are added.

It withstands heat better than other vegetable oils.  When you heat up oils, chemicals (known as aldehyde) capable of causing cancer may be released.  Both vegetable oils and olive oils release such chemicals at very high temperature. However, extra-virgin olive oil appears to be less carcinogenic when used to fry foods. Unlike, vegetable oils, it has been found that people that regularly consume foods fried with olive oil do not have a higher risk of heart disease.

Are there any disadvantages?

Certainly. There is no such thing as the perfect oil. Some other oils may be better in terms of taste and variety of uses in cooking. Olive is also rich in calories (about 120 calories per tablespoon), so may not be suitable for those that intend to lose weight.

The main disadvantage of olive oil is that it is very expensive. A litre of extra-virgin olive oil is about $18 (6,300 naira) compared with a litre of vegetable oil which sells for $3 (1000 naira). This is a huge blow for those in developing countries. It also means that a lot of Olive oil scammers would try to fill the gap as demand increases. In Nigeria, olive is used mostly by the skin, hair and beauty industry, but interest in its consumption appears to be on the rise.

How to tell if Olive oil is original:

Because of the increasing interest in Extra-virgin olive oil, various brands containing chemicals and preservatives are now in the market.

Unfortunately, there is no reliable way of knowing if your extra-virgin olive is authentic.  There have been several claims that taste, aroma or refrigerating can help. However, none is 100% reliable. Be sure to buy from reliable sources if you intend to get one.

Could this be the World’s healthiest oil?

It is too early to determine this. Why? Many of the studies (including the one on dementia) were conducted in animals. The limited data from human studies involved few participants (as low as 28). Then it is difficult to tell if these researches were driven by the Olive oil industry who stand to gain a lot from proven benefits.


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