Last month we learned about how the olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet helps our bodies fight aging through olive oil’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its ability to protect the length of our telomeres. This month we’re going to talk about how olive oil’s wonderful health properties assist our bodies in tissue repair.
The belief that olive oil can heal tissue has actually been around for thousands of years. The “Balm of Gilead,” probably the most famous medicinal balm from the Holy Land, is believed by historians to have been made from two ingredients: 1) the resin of the Arabian balsam tree, known as commiphora gileadensis, and 2) olive oil. This highly-sought after balm was a huge trade and revenue product for any country that had means to produce it and was used as a treatment across multiple cultures to treat a variety of ailments from skin maladies and wounds to illness of the lungs.
Nowadays, we rely on science to break down the composition of our foods and tell us what is in there and how it benefits (or harms) our health. So, what is it in olive oil that has made millions of people over thousands of years believe it aids in tissue repair?
It’s Called Squalene
Squalene is an organic compound that was named after Squalus, a genus of sharks. What do sharks and olive oil have common? Well, the primary commercial source of squalene is shark liver oil, but over the years, as scientists have taken olive oil apart to study its components, they found that it contains high levels of squalene as well.
What does squalene do? Is it part of the reason people who eat the Mediterranean diet have better aging and lower instances of heart disease and cancer?
Yes, it is! There are two primary ways that squalene works:
- After being ingested and broken down by the liver, about 12% of the squalene we eat becomes part of our sebum—our skin oil. On the skin’s surface, squalene protects our skin against oxidation and ultraviolet radiation. Not only that, but it promotes cell regeneration, which—yes, you guessed it—helps you heal.
- Another 60-85% of the squalene we ingest is distributed out to our body tissues. In our tissues, it regulates the function of our cells, using our own biochemical processes to actively suppress cell imbalance and mutation. In addition, it destroys free radicals through efficient cell oxygenation and waste removal. Voila! Less cancer.
How Much Squalene Do We Need?
The average North American diet provides about 30mg of squalene per day. But the Mediterranean diet provides 200-400mg per day through ingestion of olive oil. No wonder people who eat the Mediterranean diet end up with lower rates of disease and cancer!
Olive oil’s squalene content varies, but the average is 564mg per 100g of olive oil (100g is a about 7 Tbsp.). So, if you’re shooting for squalene dosage in the 200-400mg range like the Mediterranean diet, your olive oil intake should be in the 2.5-5 Tbsp. per day range. If you use good quality olive oil in your cooking, dressings, baked goods, and desserts, your squalene content is probably right about on point to provide your skin with squalene’s regenerative powers and your body tissues with its anti-carcinogen benefits.
Once again, olive oil has proven itself to be a super food worth investing in and enjoying on a daily basis. Become part of the Mediterranean diet movement and relax, knowing you do your body good all the way down to your cells when you eat smart.