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Liquid Gold: Are You Getting Enough of This?

2012 July 3

When doing research about living a healthy life over 50, I had the opportunity to pick the brains of some of the best skin care experts in the country, all of whom believe the simple keys to great skin are: exfoliate, moisturize and protect.

One of the best tips came from Carmindy, makeup expert and star of TLC’s “What Not to Wear,” who insisted that the most effective way to exfoliate skin (face and body) is with white sugar. Don’t put it IN your body, she said. Put it ON your body! And, guess what? It works. Just be extra gentle when using it on your face.

But, bar none, my favorite beauty “secret” (which sure wasn’t a secret to the ancient Greeks or my grandmother) is using olive oil on just about every part of your body, inside and out.

Olive oil has been used for thousands of years in Mediterranean cultures. Ancient Greeks knew of its power to heal wounds, and eventually they used it to light oil lamps, for cooking, and for beauty. Olive oil is one of the best moisturizers, makeup removers, cuticle softeners and hair conditioners around…but recent studies have come out supporting the major health benefits of making olive oil an essential part of our regular diets.

Here are a few reasons why olive oil has earned its well-deserved nickname—‘liquid gold’:

Weight Loss: Many people, especially from the Mediterranean, drink ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil every morning, followed by a small glass of warm water mixed with fresh lemon juice. This helps to cleanse the body, and jump-start the system. Women I met in Israel swear that drinking the olive oil each morning keeps hunger pangs away and has helped with weight loss and maintenance.

Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention: Heart disease is the number one killer of women. Stroke is the third. The FDA reports that by ingesting olive oil each day, you may reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. Olive oil contains up to 80 percent monounsaturated fatty acids, which helps to increase HDL, known as the “good” cholesterol, and decrease LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. Extra virgin olive oil, the least processed form of olive oil, has additional antioxidant properties that have a protective effect against heart disease.

Gallstone Reduction: According to the “Divine Prescription and Science of Health and Healing”, by Gunther B. Paulien, the consumption of olive oil stimulates the production of bile and pancreatic secretions that drastically reduce the formation of gallstones. An experiment revealed the actual weight of a gallstone was reduced by 68 percent after two days of being soaked in pure olive oil.

Colon Cancer Prevention: A report in the International Journal of Cancer stated that the consumption of olive oil may protect against certain forms of cancer, especially colon cancer. Olive oil contains oleic acid and other phenols that have antioxidant benefits in the body. Antioxidants rid the body of free radicals that cause cell damage and may even lead to some forms of cancer. The study showed that the phenols extracted from extra virgin olive oil inhibited colon cancer at different stages. Of course, consuming olive oil is not a substitute for getting regular colonoscopies.

Breast Cancer Prevention: The Mayo Clinic reports that the second most common killer of women is cancer, with lung cancer ranking first and breast and colorectal cancer close behind. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 12 percent of women will at some point be diagnosed with breast cancer. Another report showed that olive oil consumption was linked to a substantial decrease in breast cancer risk. The oleic acid and antioxidants in olive oil can help combat other cancers, as well.

Alzheimer’s Disease: A recent study by Northwestern University in conjunction with the Monell Chemical Senses Center shows that the natural compound in olive oil — oleocanthal — may help treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Oleocanthal actually alters the structure of neurotoxic proteins believed to contribute to the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes: Diabetes is a growing health issue in this country, especially due to the ongoing obesity issue. Many people aren’t even aware they have diabetes. Diabetes can be complicated by menopause and bring about a host of other health problems such as eye, skin and foot complications. The American Diabetes Association recommends olive oil as a healthy, monounsaturated fat to manage diabetes and the European Food Information Council reports that olive oil can reduce blood glucose levels.

It’s essential to buy the right olive oil: extra-virgin olive oil, although it isn’t always easy to know if you’re getting extra virgin, even if it says so on the label. (Note: olive oils that list “olive oil,” “pure” or “light” do not contain oleocanthal. It, like other phenolics, is removed during the refining process. It must say “extra virgin olive oil” on the label.) Only extra virgin olive oil contains the all-important oleocanthal.

So how can you tell which of the extra virgin olive oils have lots of oleocanthal? The gold standard test is taste and your physical reaction to it. Many health experts believe that extra virgin olive oil that contains oleocanthal, a distinguishing chemical characteristic of fresh-pressed olive oil, will be extra peppery and will make you want to cough. One expert stated that you should have the same reaction to ingesting extra virgin olive oil with oleocanthal to swallowing ibuprofen. This unique sensation and the accompanying ‘cough’ are regarded among connoisseurs as indicators of high quality olive oil. If the one you are using is peppery then almost certainly you are getting a liberal dose of oleocanthal in your everyday diet.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. July 5, 2012

    Interestingly, almost all the health benefits attributed to olive oil can also be attributed to organic, unrefined coconut oil! It is excellent for cooking and baking and has hundreds of other uses, including as a moisturizer. I keep a jar in my bathroom for my skin and I also brush my teeth with it and a little baking soda. I even drink a warm mug of water with lemon juice and a spoonful of coconut oil each morning, similar to the way the Italians use olive oil, lemon and water as a morning tonic.

  2. Kim Lencsak permalink
    July 5, 2012

    I wish they included some recommendations for the extra virgin olive oil….there are so many out there and I always wondered if there is a difference between the $5.99 and the 29.99 one??

    • July 5, 2012

      Hi Kim,

      Your question reminded me of some olive oils that we featured in our 2011 Holiday Gift Guide. The name of the place is called The Olive Press. They sell artisan olive oils and I think it might be a good place for you to start.

      Here’s a link to the story. It’s the first gift in the lineup:

      FOF Editor

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