Olive oil brings an impressive list of beneficial health effects due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances. It has been recognized as the most distinguishing element of the Mediterranean diet, which is linked to longer, healthier life. To learn more about the natural preventive and healing powers of olive oil, click on the links below or keep reading.

A natural painkiller, good for your digestive system
Olive oil as a natural anti-inflammatory drug
Olive oil is good for your stomach
Olive oil and the hepato-biliary system
Olive oil and the pancreas
Olive oil and the intestines
Heart and blood pressure
Olive oil and heart disease
Olive oil and blood pressure
Cancer prevention
Olive oil and breast cancer
Olive oil and bowel cancer
Olive oil and colon cancer
Olive oil and skin cancer
Olive oil and other types of cancer
Other chronic diseases
Olive oil against rheumatoid arthritis
Olive oil and diabetes
Olive oil and osteoporosis
Slowing down the aging effects
Olive oil and aging
Olive oil and beauty care

A natural painkiller, good for your digestive system

Olive oil as a natural anti-inflammatory drug
A daily dose of olive oil may act as a natural pain reliever, according to a study [1] that shows the Mediterranean staple contains an anti-inflammatory ingredient. Researchers say they've discovered a previously unknown ingredient in freshly pressed, extra virgin olive oils that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, much like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

Olive oil is good for your stomach
Olive oil is very well tolerated by the stomach. In fact, olive oil's protective function has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs. Consequently, it lowers the incidence of gallstone formation.

Olive oil and the hepato-biliary system
One of the effects of olive oil on the hepato-biliary system is that it is a cholagogue, ensuring optimal bile drainage and full emptying of the gall bladder. Another effect is that it is cholecystokinetic, i.e. it stimulates the contraction of the gall bladder, which is extremely helpful in the treatment and prevention of disorders of the bile ducts. It stimulates the synthesis of bile salts in the liver and it increases the amount of cholesterol excreted by the liver.

Olive oil and the pancreas
When consumed, olive oil produces a small amount of secretion by the pancreas, making this organ "work" little, but efficiently and enough to carry out all its digestive functions. Olive oil is recommended in diseases where pancreatic function has to be maintained, such as pancreas failure, chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, malabsorption syndromes, etc.

Olive oil and the intestines
Owing to the sitosterol it contains, olive oil partially prevents cholesterol absorption by the small intestine. It also stimulates the absorption of various nutrients (calcium, iron, magnesium, etc.).

Great for your heart and blood pressure

Olive oil and heart disease
Studies [2-7,32] have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the "good" cholesterol) levels. No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated as olive oil (mainly oleic acid). People who consumed 25 milliliters (mL) - about 2 tablespoons - of virgin olive oil daily for 1 week showed less oxidation of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of antioxidant compounds, particularly phenols, in the blood.

Olive oil and blood pressure
A study [8] by Dr. Ferrara's research team, shows that a diet high in MUFA from olive oil can also help reduce blood pressure levels. Ferrara and his colleagues found that while consuming the extra-virgin olive oil diet, research subjects reduced the amount of antihypertensive medication necessary to control blood pressure levels by 48%, versus only a 4% reduction on the sunflower oil diet. In addition, eight subjects on the extra-virgin olive oil diet required no antihypertensive medications; all subjects on the sunflower oil diet required antihypertensive medication. The authors conclude that a diet lower in total fat and saturated fat and a diet that contains higher amounts of MUFA can lower blood pressure levels and reduce or eliminate the need for medications in people with hypertension. So why does olive oil lower blood pressure? One possible reason is its polyphenol content. Polyphenols are potent antioxidants which help arteries dilate, thereby reducing blood pressure. Ten grams of extra-virgin olive oil contains five mg of polyphenols; sunflower oil has no polyphenols.

Great for cancer prevention

Olive oil and breast cancer
A fatty acid found in olive oil may reduce the production of a protein from a gene associated with breast cancer, according to a new study [15]. The findings may explain why a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil appears to protect against breast cancer. Researchers found that the oleic acid found in olive oil dramatically reduces the levels of a protein produced by the breast cancer gene Her-2/neu, which occurs in more than a fifth of women with breast cancer and is associated with particularly aggressive tumors. Olive oil is the richest natural source of this fatty acid.

Olive oil and bowel cancer
The researchers suspect olive oil protects against bowel cancer by influencing the metabolism of the gut. They think it cuts the amount of a substance called deoxycyclic acid and regulates the enzyme diamine oxidase which may be linked to cell division in the bowel.

Olive oil and colon cancer
Spanish researchers suggest that including olive oil in your diet may also offer benefits in terms of colon cancer prevention. Their study [10] results showed that rats fed diet supplemented with olive oil had a lower risk of colon cancer than those fed safflower oil-supplemented diets. In fact, the rats that received olive oil had colon cancer rates almost as low as those fed fish oil, which several studies have already linked to a reduction in colon cancer risk.

Olive oil and skin cancer
There is a low incidence of skin cancer among Mediterranean populations, and olive oil consumption could be a contributing factor to this low cancer rate. Olive oil contains significantly higher amounts of squalene than seed oils, and squalene is to a large extent transferred to the skin. Researchers believe that this transfer mechanism is probably accomplished by scavenging singlet oxygen generated by ultraviolet light. Japanese scientists also claim that virgin olive oil applied to the skin after sunbathing could protect against skin cancer by slowing tumor growth.

Olive oil and other types of cancer
Epidemiological studies have reported that the consumption of olive oil is inversely associated with cancer of the ovary[21], endometrium[22], lung[23], pancreas[24], oral cavity and pharynx[25], and even with a better prognosis in male laryngeal cancer patients[26].

Olive oil and other chronic diseases

Olive oil against rheumatoid arthritis
In a 1999 Greek study [28] published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that a lifetime of eating large quantities of olive oil and cooked vegetables slashes the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Previous research already suggested that the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder, could be lessened by consuming fish oil and olive oil. The findings of the present Greek study indicate that heavy consumption of olive oil and cooked vegetables actually helps to protect against the development of this somewhat mysterious disorder in the first place.

Olive oil and diabetes
Australian researcher Dr. Kerin O'Dea studied [29] the effects of different diets for people with diabetes. She compared a diet rich in complex carbohydrate with one rich in monounsaturated fat from olive oil. Not only did subjects on the olive oil diet enjoy their food more, they also had better control of their diabetes and lower levels of some blood fats.

Olive oil and osteoporosis
Olive oil appears to have a favourable effect on bone calcification, and bone mineralisation is better the more olive oil is consumed. It helps calcium absorption, thereby playing an important part during the period of growth and in the prevention of osteoporosis.

Slowing down the aging effects

Olive oil and aging
Some scientific studies have indicated that olive oil may reduce some of the effects of aging. It helps with digestion and the absorption of nutrients, which tends to slow as people age. It helps to maintain healthy bones and prevents calcium loss. The natural antioxidants in olive oil may even help to maintain mental faculties for a longer period.

Olive oil and beauty care
Olive oil is also beneficial for the skin and hair. Overly dry skin or sun damaged skin can be soothed with the application of olive oil. Some people apply olive oil to the skin to prevent wrinkles [33] , although there is no scientific evidence to support this. Olive oil promotes shiny and full-bodied hair and a healthy scalp.

References
Due to the vast amount of research that has been done over olive oil and its beneficial health effects, the following list of references is by definition very limited. We encourage you to search the web for more news articles and research papers to find out how olive oil might help with the prevention and control of many common chronic and progressive diseases.