Olive oil can be considered from the standpoint of food a highest value product, known since ancient times. The Italian laws define it as a “product obtained by pressing the fruits of European olea”. The fruit, commonly called olive is crushed in mills, the first squeeze produce the most valuable oil, the extra virgin oil.
NUTRITIONAL PROPERTIES: the olive oil represent the principal condiments in Mediterranean diet, preferable to other condiments, its positive action is exercised whether it is used raw or used in the kitchen thanks to its high smoke point (210° for the extra virgin). The olive oil has a high energetic power (899Kcal x 100gr), for this reason it must be used in small quantities in obese people and in overweight people too.
It has a positive action in metabolic diseases, but also in the prevention of the same, as it is very rich of monounsaturated fatty acids (they represent about 73% in the extra virgin) and in particular of oleic acid, that exercises an important role in the control on cholesterol levels.
The olive oil carries out also therapeutic functions for its gallbladder, hepatoprotective, laxative, local softening and gastric mucosal protective properties in case of ulcers.
The infusion of leaves and bark is used for forms of gout, hypertension control, rheumatisms and hemorroids.
OLIVE OIL AND CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: it was thus established the correlation between the factors related to the type of feed, especially to the assumption of fats with atherosclerotic and coronary heart diseases (CHD) factors. It has been shown that diets, specially those adopted in the North Europe that include a high content of saturated fatty acids, cause a high rates of morbidity and mortality by CHD; conversely in Mediterranean countries where diets are based on fats derived from the olive oil, the incidence of this syndrome is much lower. The positive action come from an antioxidant activity, resulting in inhibition of the formation of free radicals, that can interact whit cells determining damages specially to the cell wall and also the cell death. There are scientific evidences that prove the beneficial effects of the olive oil on lipid metabolism, as well as blood pressure, forms of diabetes, mechanisms of coagulation preventing the formation of thrombi, but above all in preventing CHD; in this last case the preventive action is due to the action of the monounsaturated fatty acids, that cause a decrease of LDL levels (low density lipoprotein) in plasma, while it promote the augmentation of HDL levels (high density lipoprotein) for their positive action in the transport of excess cholesterol to the liver where it is metabolised. Cholesterol represent a risk factor for the formation of atherosclerotic plaques whit consequent risks of stenosis or occlusion of blood vessels.
It has been observed the presence of average value of arterial pressure lower in populations with a Mediterranean diet than populations with diet rich in butter and saturated fatty acids although they have not yet been identified safely the responsible mechanisms for the antihypertensive action.
OLIVE OIL AND TUMORAL DISEAS: the positive action of olive oil in the prevention of tumors has been shown in a meta-analysis conducted by Greek researchers on the basis of scientific evidences. It has the reduction of risk in the principal tumoral forms, the action of olive oil in the prevention of tumors is expressed through an action on hormonal levels, composition of the cell membrane and by acting in a favourable way on the immune system thank to the positive role of monounsatured fatty acids. Hormonal disfunctions has proved as factors predisposing to cancer, as well as diets rich in animal fats, particularly for cancers that affect the colon and prostate.