By GEORGIA CHRISTOPOULOU, MSc Clinical Dietician- Nutritionist
Mediterranean Diet is nowadays thought as the dietary pattern that best fulfills the need for nourishment, health and pleasure. Although most foods consumed in this diet are also present in other healthy dietary models, the Mediterranean Diet has a high content of total fat as its most distinguishing feature. Olive oil is the most representative food of the Mediterranean Diet as it is the characteristic culinary fat used.
After decades of epidemiological, experimental and clinical research, it is clear that consumption of olive oil has a beneficial influence on health outcomes. The beneficial effects of virgin olive oil on health and wellness have been attributed to the increased amount of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that it contains. However, the new evidences focus on the beneficial properties of minor though highly bioactive components, which include the phenolic compounds.
Adherence to Mediterranean Diet has many beneficial effects on human health through the consumption of virgin olive oil which has anti- inflammatory, antioxidant, antiarrythmic and vasodilatory effects:
i. Decreases the obesity rates and prevents from weight gain by increasing the satiety and thus reducing the energy intake.
ii. Prevents from oxidation which is connected with age- related diseases such as stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
iii. Decreases the risk for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) by a) decreasing the total and LDL- Cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), and increasing the HDL (“good” cholesterol), b) reducing the oxidation of LDL- Cholesterol and c) improving blood pressure control.
iv. Prevents the development of Diabetes by impairing both insulin sensitivity and blood lipids.
v. Protects against some types of cancer (breast, prostate and colorectal cancers).
vi. Reduces the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage of the disease.
vii. Decreases mortality and increases longevity.