Olive oil is both pleasure and medicine

by Dr. med Heinz Oehl-Voss, Waldbronn-Reichenbach

Olive oil is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. Convincing studies have shown that Mediterranean residents are less likely to suffer from heart attack, stroke, diabetes mellitus, dementia, macular degeneration or even cancer due to their high consumption of olive oil. Recent studies have now shown which ingredients of olive oil are responsible for the healthy effect: it is the interplay of seventy percent dominant, monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic acid) with other plant substances that make up only two to three percent. These are responsible for the taste, bitter notes, aroma and color of the oil.

In addition, however, the proportion of seven to ten percent of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids seems to be important for health, especially if, on average, only 0.5 to 1 litre of olive oil are consumed per year – as in our latitudes – but 15-20 litres, as in most southern countries, includes infants and old people! Only then can the multifaceted mode of action of the oil develop from a medical point of view, almost in the sense of a "medicine". For this, however, it is necessary that products of the upper quality level are mainly used in everyday life, which is still the exception in Germany. Because with normal mass production, valuable ingredients, especially the secondary plant substances, are lost and individual fat components are oxidized – which in turn is rather harmful to health.

Olive oil can reduce many disease risk factors,taking into account quantity and quality as well as proper storage and use in the kitchen: the ratio of good to bad cholesterol (HDL to LDL) is improved. In seed oils, such as sunflower oil, the unfavorable LDL cholesterol is lowered, but also the positive HDL. This is due on the one hand to oleic acid, but on the other hand to substances such as squalene (a carbon structure with special properties), presumably also phenols, which together with vitamin E and carotenoids also prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream. In addition to the antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties have also been detected so far. Thus, phenolic ingredients such as oleuropein and oleocanthal not only cause flavours such as bitter-herb; they are anti-inflammatory agents that are very similar to the anti-inflammatory and painkiller ibuprofen.

If we fancy olive oil, we usually combine this with a vegetarian-dominated diet,which in turn provides enough fiber and a favorable mineral balance. The oil provides a better release of vitamins and phytonutrients from other food components and acts like a natural flavor enhancer. With this nutritionally justified idea, one tries to explain the preventive effect also against high blood pressure and diabetes. If it succeeds, it also results in improved brain power.

Stress and irritant gastritis are favorably influenced because the stomach acid formation is reduced by olive oil. About two million German citizens suffer from an insufficiently closing gastric intake, which leads to the so-called "reflux disease". Lighter degrees of expression benefit significantly from olive oil. But even healthy people can usually find a better digestibility of many dishes. A glass of olive oil in the morning also helps prevent constipation.

The often recognizable modes of action in cancer prevention are not yet fully explainable in olive oil. For example.B, sterines are identified as active ingredients. In any case, at least one third of all cancers are attributed to incorrect nutrition. In southern Europe, far fewer people develop cancer. This is particularly evident in breast cancer. As complex as the explanation models in cancer are, one reason could be that olive oil can be done less wrongly than with seed oils, e.B. sunflowers, thistle or unrefined rapeseed. These oils are not so well heatable, as their high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids quickly releases harmful substances during heating, especially in uncontrolled frying and grilling. Olive oil, on the other hand, is unproblematic due to its structure and protective additives. Whether it is already hot enough in the pan can be tested with a splash of water. However, the smoke point should be absolutely avoided, this applies to all fats.

Finally, olive oil is a wonderful elixir for the functioning of our skin, as its composition is very close to that of our subcutaneous fatty tissue. It mixes ideally with the fat-water molecules, penetrates deeply and promotes re-greasing, which undergoes a renaissance both medically and cosmetically (in antiquity, the "Cleopatrabad" with olive oil and milk was known). Here, too, it is essential to keep the quality standard high, because the presence of the natural, unadulterated ingredients is very important. For example, phenolic compounds such as hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein protect against UV rays and have antimicrobial effects.

Olive oil is certainly not a panacea. But integrated into the classic Mediterranean diet, quite regionally modified, with plenty of fruits, vegetables, herbs, legumes and fish, along with good wine to eat, it can very well be the basis for an enjoyable lifestyle, which can thus prevent numerous diseases by the way. And you don't need to ask a doctor or pharmacist about risks and side effects.

To deepen the topic of olive oil and health from the publishing house for aerzte:

"Olive oil – medicine on the plate" by Ing. Manfred Bläuel and Prof. Dr. med. Robert Gasser, ISBN 3-901 488 -60-X (with scientific literature references at the end of the book)

The author is a physician for internal medicine, nutrition, sports and prevention.