by Vic Shayne, PhD, April 1, 2009
If you don’t know what goes on in the olive oil industry, chances are you maybe eating olive oil that’s not really olive oil.
The olive oil industry is riddled with fraudulent practices. Most olive oil is a low-grade mixture of olive oil and canola oil that has been deodorized and artificially colored — even if the label states “extra virgin, cold pressed.” Even if (and most likely) the label states that it was made in Italy.
RESTAURANT “OLIVE OIL” ISN’T
Restaurants the world over are offering their patrons a brand of olive oil that is sold as “grocery store olive oil” — it’s cheap and adulterated. Worse, many restaurants cut their olive oil with canola oil.
Olive oil in its pure and unadulterated form is a great food. It’s one of the pillars of the much-heralded Mediterranean Diet that holds the greatest potential for the lowest disease rates (especially heart disease) and the greatest states of health. Of course, when the olive oil is tainted, there goes the neighborhood.
POLYPHENOLS PROTECT YOUR HEALTH
Olive oil is a wonderful source of polyphenols. Research shows that these lower cholesterol* and yield other benefits. Polyphenols are antioxidants that protect the cells from the oxidative damage by oxygen “free radicals” that continually circulate throughout the body.
A Portuguese study of the major antioxidants in olive oil showed that one in particular, DHPEA-EDA, protects red blood cells from damage more than any other constituent in olive oil. This compound is the major health benefit associated with virgin olive oils, which contain increased levels of DHPEA-EDA compared to other oils. In virgin olive oils, DHPEA-EDA may make up as much as half the total antioxidant component of the oil.**
But if your olive oil isn’t really olive oil, then you’re not only lacking the important constituents of the food, but you’re actually injuring yourself by eating bad oil. Bad (and altered) oils harm the body, while good oils build the health. And contrary to popular belief, good fats actually protect the body from heart (and other) disease. They also support the nervous system, hormonal system, vascular system, eyes, brain and skin.
Olive oil is a great source of good fats and vitamin E and is rich vitamins A, B-1, B-2, C, D, E and K and in iron. For thousands of years olive oil has been used by native Mediterranean cultures to as a curative food as well as a topically-applied salve.
UNINFORMED PUBLIC CAN’T RECOGNIZE GOOD OIL
Good olive oil gives off a slight burning sensation in the back of the throat. It’s a sign of high polyphenol count. Unfortunately, because we are so out of touch with the growing, harvesting, tasting and creation of real food these days, few people understand how good oil is supposed to taste.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH OLIVE OIL TO BUY?
First, I highly recommend that you read the book Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller to understand the length and breadth of this problem. Then you can go online and read about the industry fraud. The more educated you are the better chance you’ll find the real and be eating for health.
OLIVE GROWERS WHO DO THINGS RIGHT
Go to the website of the California Olive Oil Counsel and you’ll find some reliable olive oil sources.
One such grower and producer is KATZ.
Albert Katz, whose family produces olive oil in the Suisun Valley (eastern neighbor to the Napa Valley), California, and has won twenty-four gold medals over the last ten years told me,
“I was a chef for the first half of my working life and I fell in love with olive oil in the 80′s. After a trip to Italy in 1990, I became addicted to the green elixir and vowed that I would come back to California and figure out how to produce it. It has been over 20 years since that trip, but I think I finally have attained that dream.”
Regarding the integrity of olive oil on the market today, Katz explained,
“Americans in general do not really understand that ‘extra virgin’ as used by most of the industrial brands found in supermarkets throughout the US means absolutely nothing and is not policed by any federal agency. As you might know most oils labeled with this designation are not actually EVO even measured against commonly accepted world standards. In fact, studies have shown that close to 80% of those industrial brands are not even made with olives!
We have seen a dramatic increase in consumer awareness and education over the last 5-10 years and the proof is in the pudding…so to speak…as we sell out every drop of oil we can produce from our trees every year. So we know many ‘enlightened’ consumers actually get it!”
EAT OLIVE OIL AS IF YOUR HEALTH DEPENDED ON IT, BECAUSE IT DOES.
SOURCES: * Ann Intern Med. 2006 Sep 5;145(5):333-41. The effect of polyphenols in olive oil on heart disease risk factors: a randomized trial. Covas MI, Nyyssönen K, Poulsen HE, Kaikkonen J, Zunft HJ, Kiesewetter H, Gaddi A, de la Torre R, Mursu J, Bäumler H,Nascetti S, Salonen JT, Fitó M, Virtanen J, Marrugat J; EUROLIVE Study Group.
** Wiley-Blackwell (2009, April 1). Source Of Major Health Benefits In Olive Oil Revealed.