Olive oil contains high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) along with a plethora of bioactive ingredients. Out of these, phenolic ingredients are the most extensively studied. As far as the benefits of MUFA in human health are concerned, the American Federation of Foods and Beverages licensed, for the first time in 2004, quality health claims concerning the protection offered by the MUFA of the olive oil against cardiovascular diseases. In total, the benefits of olive oil’s fatty acids were summarized in the first International Conference about Olive Oil and health in 2005.
But olive oil is more than a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Its phenolic ingredients have been proven to have anti-inflammatory and chemo-protective attributes. Olive oil’s oleocanthal, has been found to have a similar effect with the anti-inflammatory drug ibunoprofene. No study, in which the role of olive oil’s phenolic ingredients has been examined, has ever shown any cell toxicity.
In 2006, the European study EUROLIVE (The effect of olive oil consumption on oxidative damage in European populations) presented well-documented proof of the protective role of olive oil’s phenolic ingredients. Experiments concerning this study were carried out in 200 healthy volunteers from all over Europe and indicated protection against acidic stress, after a daily consumption of 25 ml olive oil, rich in phenolic ingredients (virgin olive oil). More specifically, an increase in HDL has been observed, alongside with reduced indicators of lipidic oxidative stress after a three-month consumption of virgin olive oil. Moreover, the same study showed a 13% reduction in the indicators of DNA oxidization, which is a percentage comparable to the amounts observed after the quitting of smoking.