At Old Town Olive, news of the health benefits of olive oil comes as no surprise. We’ve seen health fads come and go, but the health benefits of olive oil have been backed by many scientific studies over the years.
One of the most recent studies by a group of researchers at the University of Navarra tied olive oil to a sizeable reduction in breast cancer. Specifically, women who participated in the study who added extra-virgin olive oil to their diet showed a 62 percent lower risk of breast cancer over approximately the next five years. This particular study was conducted in Spain, where the popular Mediterranean diet is common.
The participants were, on average, 68 years old and obese. There were 4,282 women in total, and after approximately 5 years, there were 35 confirmed cases of breast cancer in the group. The women who had participated in the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin demonstrated a 62 percent lower risk of malignant breast cancer than the other women who were on the control diet.
Other studies have already proven that a healthy diet with extra nuts and olive oil aids in helping people live longer, avoid heart disease, and can cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 30 percent. However, what’s key to this particular study, is the women who received extra nuts and not olive oil did not demonstrate this same reduced risk of breast cancer.
So what is it about extra-virgin olive oil in particular? Extra-virgin means that the olive oil is squeezed mechanically, rather than using heat or chemicals, so its chemical makeup remains intact.
As we know, all types of olive oil provide a high amount of monounsaturated fatty acids (like oleic acid and squalene). Extra virgin olive oil contains these but, in addition, several active compounds like polyphenols olecanthal, oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and lignans. That’s a lot of alphabet soup, but the take-away is oleic acid which studies have shown may act directly on cancer-causing genetic mutations. Squalene may also help reverse the damage caused by oxidation, a damaging chemical reaction which has been tied to cancer and heart disease, too.
With breast cancer being the second largest cancer killer of women in the United States, it’s reassuring to know there is something we can actively do to help. When you’re preparing your lunch salad or evening fish dinner, reach for the extra-virgin olive oil.