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Olive Oil is a Golden Example of "Food as Medicine"
The Great Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Hoax
A wealth of research on extra-virgin olive oil confirms its powerful medicinal value in cancer prevention, pain relief, and even weight control. But -- is your "extra virgin" oil even a "virgin" at all? A new study reveals shocking findings that you must know.
Olive Oil is a Golden Example of "Food as Medicine"
Medical science has already proven that fresh-pressed, extra-virgin, olive oil lowers "bad" cholesterol -- and cuts the risk of heart disease and stroke. It helps protect against cancer -- especially of the breast, prostate, and colon.
It can also cool inflammation and ease joint pain without side effects -- and it allows your bones to better absorb calcium, which may help prevent osteoporosis.
Finally, it's loaded with some of the most powerful disease-fighting antioxidants and polyphenols known to science. These fortify your immune system and help it protect every organ of your body against disease.
Here are a few recent research findings, which highlight olive oil as a ...
Pain Killer: An antioxidant called oleocanthal, found only in extra-virgin olive oil, may fight pain as effectively as ibuprofen. A nutritional way to reduce pain and inflammation could be important for those who can't tolerate the side effects of pain meds.
Cancer Fighter: Phenols in olive oil have potential antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, chemopreventive, and anti-cancer benefits.
Fat Buster: Research from Spain shows that higher olive oil consumption is associated with leaner body weight.
Mood Booster: A study from the universities of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain examined how diets including olive oil might protect against depression.
Research on Fresh-Pressed Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Research on olive oil's health benefits is conducted on fresh-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil. Unfortunately, that's almost impossible to find in the U.S., despite what olive oil labels claim.
Just very recently, a few of the most informed and health-conscious American consumers have been able to purchase genuinely pure, fresh-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil. This is due to the pioneering innovation of T.J. Robinson, renowned now as the "Olive Oil Hunter" and known previously as an award-winning chef and food journalist. T.J.'s efforts are making 100% certified extra-virgin olive oil available to a select few -- but not via supermarket shelves or gourmet stores.
That's because the olive oil sold in stores is simply too old to offer any significant health benefits. Olive oil authority Nancy Ash explains, "Imported olive oil is almost always 6 to 9 months old before it even arrives in the United States! By then, much of its flavor, its beneficial polyphenols and antioxidants are significantly degraded."
To make things worse, blatant fraud runs rampant in the olive oil business. Thanks to its many publicized health benefits, demand for olive oil is soaring. Olive trees have blossomed into money trees, attracting a regrettable army of unscrupulous enterprises.
A landmark investigative New Yorker report titled "Slippery Business" revealed that "Olive oil is far more valuable than most other vegetable oils, but is costly and time-consuming to produce -- and surprisingly easy to doctor. Adulteration is especially common in Italy, the world's leading importer, consumer, and exporter of olive oil."
And a recent independent study at the University of California Davis revealed how shockingly common adulteration and fraud actually is. Scientists at UC Davis analyzed 14 of the country's most popular imported brands and found that ...
... 69% of the imported extra virgin olive oils were fake,
adulterated or stale ...
... or sometimes the oils were so sub par that they failed to meet international and USDA standards for being labeled "extra virgin."
According to Dan Flynn, executive director of the Olive Center at UC Davis, "The oil was often old ... possibly adulterated ... or it was poorly made. But it wasn't extra virgin."
Long-Standing Olive Oil Fraud
Fraudulent olive oil is not new. For years, articles in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New Yorker magazine, and elsewhere have blown the whistle. A National Public Radio report even called olive oil fraud "rampant."
Some producers have been caught adulterating the oil they label as "extra virgin" with much cheaper hazelnut, soy, or sunflower seed oils, as well as mislabeling its country of origin. As one investigator explained to the New Yorker, the profits in adulterating olive oil are "comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks." The New Yorker investigation revealed that in recent years, "olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, prompting the E.U.'s anti-fraud office to establish an olive-oil task force."
In the end, you're left with adulterated oil in your kitchens, on your food, and in your body. And you're missing out on all of those much-touted health benefits.
The Critical 3-Month Freshness Window
As reported in a study from Italy's University of Foggia, olive oil's polyphenols are stable for only 3 months after pressing ... then plummet by about 40% after just 6 months of storage. Thus to reap olive oil's documented health benefits, you should secure and consume your oil within 3 months of its pressing.
In America, that's virtually impossible, since only a tiny trickle of olive oil ever makes it to our shores that quickly. To save the cost of shipping this heavy product, almost all importers opt for slow cargo boats. As a result, most oils are 6 months old before they even hit stores.
And you'll almost never find a production or harvest date on their labels, because that would reveal how old the oil really is.
Dr Darius H Umrigar MD(AM)