Is Your Olive Oil Counterfeit?September 2016
Extra virgin olive oil” are not what consumers thinkOlive oil is a critical part of the Mediterranean diet. Higher consumption of extra virgin olive oil has been shown to reduce risk of all-cause mortality by 23%, cardiovascular events by 28%, and stroke incidence 40%. Startling findings reveal many brands are diluted with cheap omega-6 fats.
By Michael DowneyThese fats not only create health problems, but deprive consumers of beneficial Polyphemus from pure extra virgin olive oil.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Scientists are finding varying cardiovascular benefits from extra virgin olive oil, depending on the brand tested.
- Olive oil’s potent effects have now been shown to be dependent on its levels of constituents known as polyphenols.
- Vast differences in polyphenol levels are due to extraction and handling differences, as well as to widespread adulteration of olive oil products. Up to 80% of oils sold in the US as extra virgin olive oil are adulterated.
- Fortunately, an extra virgin olive oil has been identified that is tested to be vastly superior in polyphenol content as well as 100% adulteration-free.
Polyphenol Levels are CriticalOriginally, olive oil’s high content of monounsaturated fatty acids was credited with its health benefits. Abundant levels of one particular monounsaturated fatty acid known as oleic acid have been demonstrated to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol and decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol.17 Scientists initially thought that if oleic acid were responsible for the bulk of olive oil’s cardiovascular and other health benefits, they would see the same benefits with oleic acid itself. But that is not what they found.18 Instead, an explosion of research strongly suggests that many of olive oil’s benefits are attributable to its polyphenols, which are compounds naturally occurring that inhibit oxidation and extend shelf-life. The presence of disease-fighting polyphenols in olive oil appears to explain why other monounsaturated-rich oils don’t come close to matching olive oil’s health benefits.19 Hydroxytyrosol is one of the polyphenols found in the highest amounts in olive oil—and it has been demonstrated to provide key cardiovascular benefits.20,21 This polyphenol and others that are abundant in extra virgin olive oil—including tyrosol and verbascoside—neutralize free radicals, lower blood pressure, and slow atherosclerosis.21 Over 30 different polyphenols (also called phenolics) are found in extra virgin olive oil, including lignans and the secoiridoids known as oleuropein and oleocanthal.21,22 A recent meta-analysis, including 32 studies and 841,211 subjects, clarified that the benefits of olive oil consumption far exceed the benefits of other rich sources of monounsaturated fatty acids—underscoring that olive oil’s beneficial effects derive from polyphenols.23 This meta-analysis showed that when evaluating olive oil separately, olive oil itself reduced the risk for all-cause mortality by 23%, cardiovascular events by 28%, and stroke incidence by 40%. Monounsaturated fatty acid intakes that came from a general mix of animal and plant origins did not reveal any significant risk reduction for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular events, or stroke.23 As University of California at Davis scientists reported regarding this meta-analysis, extra virgin olive oil “… is the only oil that is high both in monounsaturated fat and phenol content, and comparable health benefits would not be provided by other oils or foods.”24 As a result, it is now broadly recognized that the high polyphenol content of extra virgin olive oil (not its high monounsaturated fat content) is an important driver of its documented reduction in cardiovascular disease risk and other benefits.18,19,23
THE VASCULAR PROTECTIVE EFFECTS OF OLIVE OIL POLYPHENOLS
Olive Polyphenols Regulate Blood LipidsThe amount of cholesterol in one’s blood and its breakdown of “bad LDL” and “good HDL” remains a hallmark by which conventional authorities assess vascular disease risk. Olive oil favorably modulates these blood lipid levels. A flurry of studies reveals differences between higher-polyphenol and lower-polyphenol olive oils for a variety of cardiovascular markers. Olive oils richer in polyphenols were found to produce:
- Reduced LDL,25
- Improved LDL density,25
- Increased HDL,26,27
- Improved HDL function,28
- Reduced LDL oxidation,26,29 and
- Improved postprandial hemostatic (blood flow-inhibiting) profile to a less thrombogenic (clot-promoting) state.30,31
WHAT ARE POLYPHENOLS?
Olive Oil Adulteration is WidespreadThe United States is the world’s third-largest consumer of olive oil, and standards for the top grade—“extra virgin”—have been established by the International Olive Council and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).33 However, there are numerous ways to cheat, and enforcement is virtually nonexistent. An estimated 50% of extra virgin olive oil brands sold in Italy—and 75% to 80% of extra virgin olive oil brands sold in the United States—do not even meet the legal grades to be called extra virgin.6 The most common fraud involves diluting extra virgin olive oil with lower-quality oils from North Africa and other areas. Worse, many bottles labeled extra virgin olive oil contain almost no olive oil at all—just a seed oil such as sunflower, altered with chlorophyll and beta-carotene to convey the same appearance and fragrance.6 Some use an inert liquid fat as a base, adding just a little olive oil to pass it off as genuine. Others deodorize rancid oil using chemicals and heat, killing off its health properties.34 In addition to laboratory measured standards for “extra virgin,” the International Olive Council and USDA have established sensory standards—indicators that detect when oils are oxidized, low-quality, lacking characteristic fruity flavor, or adulterated with cheap, refined oils.33 Using these sensory tests, University of California at Davis scientists analyzed 186 extra virgin olive oil samples from several countries, all selected randomly from retail shelves in California. They found that 73%—imported and local—failed. The extent to which each failing brand failed its sensory tests ranged from 56% to 94%. The majority of samples tested exhibited one or more of the following:33
- Oxidation by exposure to high temperatures, light, or aging,
- Adulteration with cheaper, refined olive oil, or
- Poor quality from processing flaws, improper storage, or use of damaged and overripe olives.
COOKING AND STORAGE CONDITIONS FOR EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
High-Polyphenol, Adulteration-Free Olive OilRefining causes a reduction in the polyphenol content of olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is less refined. Even among authentic extra virgin olive oils, a host of factors interact to determine polyphenol content. These include olive variety, weather type, timing of harvest, promptness of pressing, pressing method, handling, distance to market, and storage.32 An investigation has found an olive oil brand that is both polyphenol-packed and completely pure and unadulterated, making it possible for Americans to derive the full health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. This is especially critical in light of research reporting that it is the polyphenol content of olive oils that unleashes the full health benefits, including reduction in all-cause mortality.18,23,25-31 This California-derived extra virgin olive oil meets all conditions for purity. The olives are grown on a family farm, providing the Mediterranean-like climate needed for nutrient-rich olives while avoiding the long transit time involved in importing Mediterranean-derived oil. The non-GMO olives are harvested early in the season and handpicked to exclude leaves and avoid the bruising caused by mechanical harvesters. They are crushed within hours of harvest rather than days, and the resulting oil is then cold-extracted and not filtered, which preserves its raw qualities, after which it is stored in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks until it’s poured into dark bottles to protect it from light.
NEW ANALYSIS HIGHLIGHTS THE CARDIAC DANGERS OF CORN OIL
- Extra virgin olive oil contains oleic acid and is rich in heart-healthy polyphenols including oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, and verbascoside.17,20,21
- Avocado oil, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, carotenoids, and phytosterols is a healthy option.49
- Flaxseed oil, high in healthy omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid is another healthy option.50
SummaryOlive oil’s beneficial effects are highly dependent on its polyphenols. There are huge differences in polyphenol content of commercially sold olive oil brands. This can occur because of variable growing conditions and from extraction and handling differences. Most troubling, however, is widespread adulteration. Studies show that between 75% and 80% of oils sold in the United States as “extra virgin olive oil” are adulterated or diluted. A California grown extra virgin olive oil has been identified that is lab-tested to be superior in polyphenol content with no adulteration. If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
IMPACT ON BODY WEIGHT
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