The Health Benefits of Olive Oil and How Much You Should Consume Daily

Olive oil has long been touted for its health benefits, with claims that it can help you live longer. But how much truth is there to these claims? And if olive oil is so healthy, how much should you aim to consume on a daily basis? We will examine what the research says about olive oil and longevity, including how much you should aim to consume daily.

Olive Oil Nutrition Overview

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which are considered heart-healthy fats. Monounsaturated fats can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels while maintaining or even raising “good” HDL cholesterol levels. Olive oil also contains powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. These antioxidants help fight oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which are contributing factors in many chronic diseases. The main polyphenol found in olive oil is oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen. Some of the key health benefits of olive oil include:

  • Lowering risk of heart disease by improving cholesterol levels
  • Supporting brain and nerve function
  • Reducing pain and inflammation
  • May benefit gut health
  • Withstanding high heat during cooking without breaking down

Not All Olive Oils Are Created Equal

It’s important to note that not all olive oils are created equal when it comes to nutrition and quality. “Extra virgin” olive oil is the highest quality and contains the most antioxidants like polyphenols. But even among extra virgin olive oils there can be major differences. Here are 6 key things to look for when buying extra virgin olive oil:

  1. First Cold Press” on the Label
    • Indicates olives were pressed without heat or chemicals to extract oil
  2. Sold in Dark Bottles
    • Protects oil from light exposure
  3. Harvest Date
    • Ideally within last 12-18 months
  4. Laboratory Testing/Certification
    • Ensures quality standards for “extra virgin” classification
  5. Single Country of Origin
    • Allows for purity and quality control
  6. Peppery Taste
    • Indicates presence of beneficial polyphenols

Avoid olive oils labeled “light” or “extra light” as they are often diluted with other refined oils. Also be wary of olive oils from multiple countries, as quality can vary significantly.

Olive Oil and Longevity Research

Numerous large population studies have found that regular olive oil consumption is associated with increased longevity and reductions in risk of chronic diseases and mortality. Here is a summary of some of the major findings:

  • A 2019 study of Greek adults found that exclusive use of olive oil was associated with better scores on an index of “successful aging” compared to adults who used no olive oil or mixed oils. The association was strongest for those over age 70.
  • An 18-year study in Spain found that consuming 2 or more tablespoons of olive oil per day was associated with a 31% lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to minimal olive oil consumption. Olive oil consumption was also associated with reduced cardiovascular and cancer mortality.
  • A study of US adults found that consuming around 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil per day was associated with a 19% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, 17% lower risk of cancer mortality, and 29% lower risk of neurodegenerative disease mortality compared to never or rarely consuming olive oil.
  • Replacing butter, mayo, and other fats with olive oil appears to lower mortality risk.

The evidence clearly demonstrates that regular olive oil consumption plays an important role in longevity and minimizing risk of chronic diseases that are common causes of death.

How Much Olive Oil Per Day for Health Benefits?

Based on the current research, daily olive oil consumption in the range of 1-2 tablespoons (15-30ml) seems to provide the most health and longevity benefits. Consuming more than 2 tablespoons per day has not been shown to provide additional benefits.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil into your daily diet:

  • Use for cooking vegetables, eggs, meat etc.
  • Drizzle on salads, soups, pasta dishes
  • Mix with balsamic vinegar for salad dressing
  • Saute greens like kale or spinach
  • Add to smoothies
  • Take spoonfuls straight as a supplement (not required)

As mentioned earlier, make sure to use high quality extra virgin olive oil and store properly to retain freshness and antioxidant levels. Although olive oil is healthy, it is still high in calories, so portion control is important.

The Blue Zones Connection

The health benefits of olive oil consumption fit right in with the diets of “Blue Zones” regions where people live the longest. Blue Zones are specific geographic regions where data shows that residents reach age 100 at much higher rates than the average population. These include:

  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California

Research shows that moderate olive oil consumption is a core part of the traditional diets in places like Ikaria and Sardinia. In Ikaria, middle aged adults were found to consume about 6 tablespoons of olive oil per day on average.

Studies show this is associated with roughly a 50% lower risk of dying compared to non-olive oil consumers. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of olive oil likely contribute to lower rates of chronic diseases and mortality in these Blue Zone regions.

Key Takeaways on Olive Oil and Longevity

  • Olive oil provides powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits from compounds like polyphenols and oleocanthal.
  • Research consistently links regular olive oil consumption to increased longevity and lower risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Aim for 1-2 tablespoons (15-30ml) of high quality extra virgin olive oil per day. Consuming more than 2 tablespoons does not seem to provide additional benefits.
  • Be sure to choose quality olive oil stored in dark bottles and verify labels for freshness and purity.
  • Olive oil is a core component of traditional diets in longevity “Blue Zones” like Ikaria, Greece and Sardinia, Italy.
  • Incorporate olive oil into cooking, salads, dressings, and other foods each day to boost longevity.

In summary, making olive oil a staple of your diet is a simple step you can take to potentially add more years to your lifespan and compress morbidity. Let olive oil be your daily “longevity elixir”!

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