09 Dec

Indians take to olive oil for healthier tomorrow

With lifestyle diseases like obesity and heart trouble becoming endemic in the country, Indians are increasingly taking to olive oil as the preferred cooking medium, prompting global manufacturers to eye this growing market.

According to the International Olive Council (IOC), a non-profit organisation, Indians today consume some 2,000 tonnes of olive oil per annum, but the demand is expected to grow to about 10,000 tonnes over the next three years.

“A lot of people in India have started using olive oil and we are urging more people to adopt it for healthier tomorrow,” says Franco Oliva, deputy director and head of the promotion division of the global body.

“Other tempting factors are the presence of a huge middle class, fitness freak youngsters, booming economy and the steadily-improving distribution network and retail environment,” Oliva told IANS.

The executive is also in India for a seminar titled “International Conference on Mediterranean Diet and Health” being organised by his organisation here during Dec 11-12.

Nutritionists and cardiac surgeons maintain that olive oil lowers bad cholesterol, the low-density lipoproteins that damage heart’s vessel walls, and can actually increase the level of good cholesterol and high-density lipoproteins.

“This provides protection against the onset of cardiovascular diseases. So it is highly recommended to heart patients,” says nutritionist Rachna Sethi, who is also a member of the Indian Dietetics Association.

Experts also maintain that these factors far overweigh the comparatively higher cost of olive oil – which is available in India for around Rs.600 per litre, as against Rs.200-450 in some parts of the world.

Some brands of olive oil available in India include Leonardo, Olitalia, Olivo, Consul, Bilginoglu, Filippo berio, Arte Oliva, Fragata, Colavita, Santagata, Divella, Casarinaldi, Sasso, Costa d’Oro, Granoro and Pietro Coricelli.

The oil is obtained solely from the olive fruits using a special process. The trees are found in temperate regions at latitudes varying from 20 to 40 degrees, experts said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 180 million people worldwide were currently suffering from diabetes, of which over 35 million were in India. And by 2030, India will have some 80 million such patients.

Also, health experts maintain that nearly 30 per cent of the India’s population is overweight and that at least 50 per cent will suffer from obesity in the next decade or two.

Apart from bringing physical suffering to people, heart-related problems also entail an economic loss – which the WHO estimates at $236 billion for India by 2015.

“The burden of diseases would weigh heavily on the economic backbone of the country unless, of course, people bring a change in their lifestyles,” says noted cardiologist Naresh Trehan, who, too, advocates a shift to olive oil.

“Along with the loss in human capital, the country’s economy, too, will suffer on account of loss in working days and treatment costs.”

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