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Wellness
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As average Americans develop a healthier lifestyle, they seek alternative foods, therapies and supplements.  Olive oil is a popular example since it's considered the "healthy oil" and a great alternative to solid fats like butter or stick margarine. But is it really good for us?

Like many foods that have gained popularity for health benefits over the last 20 years, there have been numerous studies of olive oil to confirm or debunk the claims that olive oil has health benefits. 

Claims that olive oil may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) have been significant in making it one of the hottest selling oils on the market to health conscience consumers. 

But, these same claims about olive oil may lead to confusing messages that add to it's mass appeal.   Once clearly understood, you may not only question whether it's "good" for you, but if it's actually "bad"?  

Olive oil market

Good marketing can, among other things, do the following:

You better believe that a multibillion-dollar industry like the global olive oil market (slated for considerable growth over the coming years and expected to reach 17.73 billion USD by 2027 according to a July 2021 article on GlobeNewswire.com) certainly has top tier marketers working tirelessly to maintain the oil's popularity.  In fact, the industry has already had such success from the oil's heart healthy claims, it's plans to keep those claims top-of-mind as a means to attain such growth.

But, use of these claims for industry growth could also be regarded as a dependency and with dependency comes desperation and greed.  As such, this industry is well-known for corruption to include mislabeling, cutting olive oil with cheaper oils (commonly considered fake olive oil) and false claims.

See this article about detecting if your olive oil is fake:

Food Renegade 'How To Tell If Your Olive Oil Is Fake'

While standards have improved over the years, olive oil fraud still exists along with confusing information found on sites, blogs & social media posts regarding the recommendations, claims and benefits of the oil's use.

While the FDA has approved 2 very beneficial claims for the industry (oleic acid in edible oils... claim approval, 2018 (updated 2020) and monosaturated fatty acids from olive oil...claim approval, 2004 that provide manufacturers the right to advertise their oils as having heart healthy benefits, the industry may have quite a bit of false recognition based on all of those incorrect, incomplete or unsupported claims.  

While some of these claims may be malicious or fraudulent, many may just be a failure to understand and convey the science behind the value or risks of consuming this product.

We went ahead and listed some claims and facts below to clear up some common misconceptions found online and on social media: 

Claim

The FDA recommends you take 2 tablespoons of olive oil per day

Fact

The FDA's complete qualified health claim regarding olive oil refers to replacing solid fats with olive oil

The qualified health claim approved by the FDA for olive oil bottle labeling 'based on limited but not conclusive evidence' suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil per day may reduce CHD.  However, in order to achieve this benefit there are predications to include: those two tablespoons of olive oil (monosaturated fats) must replace equal amounts of saturated fats and there can not be an increase of daily caloric intake. 

So, as per the credible evidence, the FDA does not approve a claim or recommend you 'take two tablespoons of olive oil per day' as an addition to your daily caloric or fat intake in order to improve your heart health. 

Unless you're taking two tablespoons of butter or lard every morning and replacing it with olive oil, this claim is DEBUNKED!

This is a good example of clever marketers initiating demand and value for a product with strong claims while downplaying important parts of their claims that may reduce the same.

Find a couple articles with impressive studies about Olive Oil:

WebMD 'Say No To Olive Oil'

Forks Over Knives 'Why Olive Oil Is Not Healthy For Your Heart'

Claim

Olive oil is good for you.

Fact

Olive oil is good and bad for you.

As mentioned above in our marketing tips, marketers need to gain your interest, create value and downplay detractions.  This industry has done a great job driving demand and value with extraordinary health beneficial claims regarding reduced risk for CHD, cancer cell killing properties in extra-virgin olive oil, etc.  But some claims make it easy for consumers to get confused about what's good for them, better or just plain bad.

Yes, olive oil has health benefits and may be good for you.  One of the greatest claims based on credible research involves a phenolic compound called oleocanthal.  It is found in extra-virgin olive oil and is known to actually kill cancer cells.  Further studies also indicate it may slow Alzheimer's and reduce inflammation caused by arthritis.

However, in order for the oil to provide certain benefits it can not be prepared at high heat, it should be stored in a dark, cool place and preferably packaged in a dark bottle.  It should be high quality, only extra-virgin olive oil variety and somewhat costly as the cost to produce fine extra-virgin olive oil is great.  So, if it's cheap, it's crap.  

It's a fat and expensive which makes the cost to health and pocketbook prohibitive when consuming daily. However, to achieve the compelling benefits, daily and/or consistent use is exactly what may be needed. 

A few reasons to rethink your new olive oil kick:

It basically comes down to your personal reasons for it's use and if the possible benefits outweigh the long-term potential damage.

Claim

Olive oil is good for your heart.

Fact

Olive oil is a healthy alternative to other oils that are worse for your heart health.

You may think that healthy alternatives like olive oil are good for you because they say they are' heart healthy' when they are actually bad for your general health in comparison to no oil at all.  High dietary cholesterol from any fat is still best avoided.

Monounsaturated fats will still lead to plaque build-up in the arteries that can result in atherosclerosis, a condition that may lead to strokes, heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms.   

However, when preparing high fat food that requires some type of oil, it is better to choose those with phytochemicals, like extra virgin olive oil since it may help block the absorption of fat.   It's also better to consume monounsaturated fats (found in plant based oils like olive oil) rather than saturated fats and trans fats. 

Basically, you need to know that just because they say olive oil is 'heart healthy' doesn't mean that it's good for you.  It basically means it's better for you on the scale of all oils and considered heart healthy because it's use decreases your risks of- or combats some disease(s) if reducing your consumption of something worse (butter, ghee, lard) than it.   

Claim

If you add olive oil to your daily diet, you will be a healthier person.

Fact

People who consume olive oil are healthier people.

Confused?  You should be.  This is an example of a clever trick marketers use to confuse you.  They formulate campaigns, packaging and labels to imply "good health" or otherwise in order to manipulate us into hoping that if we purchase their products we will assume good health.

Replacing saturated fats with monosaturated fats will maintain better heart health.   But, you may not necessarily improve your health from adding olive oil to your daily intake.  However, those individuals who cook with this oil at low to moderate temperatures or consume it raw such as on salads and in marinades will likely have an overall healthier diet and live a healthier lifestyle because they are more health conscious and generally eat less foods with high saturated fats. 

The fact that olive oil is a plant based oil and a plant based diet is obviously healthier also supports this fact. 

While thousands of studies suggest phytochemicals such as those found in high quality, extra-virgin olive oil, may offer health benefits such as controlling inflammation, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved brain function and cancer fighting properties, the oil itself may negate it's value to your health.  There may be other foods high in phytochemicals that have little to no drawbacks that can provide the same health benefits.

Claim

All olive oil is the same.

Fact

There is a difference between light olive oil and extra-virgin olive oil.

If you seek the best flavor and health benefits from olive oil, you should be prepared to spring for the higher quality extra-virgin olive oil variety.   The major health benefits associated with olive oil have been linked to helpful plant chemicals like polyphenols and plant sterols.  These chemicals are mostly lost in the over-processed virgin olive oils or light versions of the oil, but are found in extra-virgin olive oil varieties.  These phytochemicals are the primary "heart healthy" advantages of the oil in that they are known to offer some protection from fats consumed in a high fat meal.  

Claim

Olive oil is low in calories.

Fact

Olive oil has 119 calories in each tablespoon.

Any variety of oil is considered a significantly calorie-dense food.  Again, regard olive oil as a generally healthier alternative to other oils, but note that it is still a high calorie food.  This may be hard to accept when so many diet plans may suggest olive oil is a healthy part of the plan. 

It's just the healthiest alternative currently available for preparing low fat meals or for salads and marinades.  Just don't get carried away with this oil in dips or toppings with the idea that it is low in calories if it is part of a reduced-calorie diet plan.  Stick to the exact measurements to avoid the diet plan from failing to meet your expectations.  An extra two tablespoons is as many calories as your average candy bar!

Claim

Olive oil is good for your skin.

Fact

Olive oil is a great alternative to furniture polish, but not necessarily good for your skin.

While natural products like olive oil are often highly regarded based on the reduced chemicals and additives found in other products; you should still understand the molecular chemistry associated with any products you use on your skin or in alternative ways other than their primary use. 

Olive oil molecules are actually too big to fit into the pores of your skin and can actually lead to clogged pores.  This can cause the oil to sit on top of your skin instead of absorbing quick enough to avoid dirt and particles in the air from sticking to the oil on your skin.  This leads to higher incidents of break-outs.  

All oils are heavy moisturizers for your face and may be prone to cause clogged pores.  Jojoba or almond oil may be better alternatives for oil used on your face or sensitive areas prone to break-outs.  If you are still interested in using olive oil, use it sparingly or with your cleanser to provide some benefits of the oil without leaving a heavy residue.  Also, utilize the extra virgin olive oils which are from the first press of the olive and more refined.  This may help in reducing the chance of acne or clogged pores.

Two parts olive oil and one part lemon juice make a great furniture polish!  Oddly enough, it's best to not use the extra virgin olive oil since it does not work as well as the light or virgin olive oil versions. 


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