30 Mar

The new way to enjoy ancient olive

By Caroline Bellamy,

Olives lower blood cholesterol and are also full of antioxidants which protect the heart, the therapeutic benefits of olives and olive oil have been known for centuries, Mediterraneans have long prized the small fruit of the Olea Europaea for its health-boosting properties.

Now, those properties are being harnessed for use in supplements, tinctures, creams and even drinks.

“We’ve known for a long time that olive oil is beneficial for heart health,” says Bridget Aisbitt, nutritionist for the British Nutrition Foundation.

“Of all the commonly available oils, olive oil is the highest in monounsaturated fats that lower blood cholesterol levels.

“It is also an excellent source of antioxidants, which protect the heart.”

But the health benefits of olive oil don’t stop there. Studies into the effects of olive oil and olive derivatives on certain types of cancer, while not conclusive, show promising results.

In 2005, a study by Columbia University in the US found that a pill of olive oil and herbs reduced the growth rate of prostate cancer cells, in vitro, by as much as 80 per cent.

And in July 2006, the Southern Cross University and University of Queensland, both in Australia, published a joint report suggesting that olive leaf extract in supplement form could ward off breast and prostate cancers.

Hazel Nunn, from Cancer Research UK, advises a little caution, however: “Mediterranean diets have been linked to a lower risk of cancer. But there is little evidence from human studies that olive oil is the reason.”

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