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Using of Olive Oil
Scientific Name: Olive Oil
Other Names: Oleum olivae, Sweet Oil
Who is this for?
Using olive oil in place of butter and other fats that come from animal sources may help to prevent heart disease. Fats are generally classified as saturated or unsaturated according to their chemical structures. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. Mainly derived from animal sources, saturated fats are more likely to form deposits in blood vessels, thereby increasing the chance of having high cholesterol, heart disease, and other conditions. Liquid plant oils such as olive oil, are mostly unsaturated and less likely to accumulate in blood vessels. In addition, olive oil contains large amounts of fatty acids including linolenic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. These and other fatty acids are thought to block the production of chemicals that lead to the formation of deposits in the blood vessels. When unsaturated (plant) fats replace saturated (animal) fats in the diet, blood cholesterol levels may be lowered and the risk of heart disease may decrease.
In general, individuals who eat a diet high in olive oil and low in animal fats also seem less likely to develop certain cancers. The overall risk of having breast, colon, prostate, and possibly other cancers may be significantly higher in countries with a high consumption of animal fats. Although the underlying reasons are not understood fully, it is believed that unsaturated fats such as olive oil may have an antioxidant effect, which may help prevent cellular damage that leads to cancer. They may also have a general enhancing effect on immune function, which may help to limit the formation of cancer cells.
Additionally, olive oil may help prevent and treat several other conditions. In animal studies, oral doses of olive oil have been associated with reduced blood sugar levels in animals with diabetes. Although no clinical studies of olive oil's effects on human blood sugar levels have been published, results from an observational study of over 500 adults suggest that individuals who regularly consume olive oil in their diets have less chance of developing insulin resistance. A risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and other conditions; insulin resistance occurs when the body becomes less able to use the insulin it produces. As a result, sugar is unable to enter the cells that need it for energy and more of it remains in the blood. Although not all the reasons for olive oil's potential effects on blood sugar are understood, it is known that olive oil may increase the body's production of a chemical known as glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP 1). Because it lengthens the amount of time that contents stay in the stomach, GLP 1 allows the nutrients from foods to be absorbed over a longer period, decreasing the chances of large variations in blood sugar levels. Additionally, individuals may feel full longer, which could help to discourage snacking. In case studies, individuals with diabetes who follow a Mediterranean diet also appear to have less chance of developing complications such as kidney and nerve damage from diabetes.
It is believed that the fatty acids and other substances in olive oil may also interfere with the formation of chemicals that promote inflammation within the body. This anti-inflammatory effect, along with olive oil's possible antioxidant and immune-enhancing properties may help prevent and relieve inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. In another area of research, taking olive oil regularly may help to prevent migraine headaches. One small study reported that teens who had migraines and who took supplemental olive oil every day for 2 months lessened the chance of having a headache and also decreased the length and severity of migraines that did occur. Exactly how olive oil may produce these effects is not understood completely, and further study is needed to confirm results.
Applied to the skin, olive oil serves as a softening agent. By itself or in cosmetic products, olive oil is often used to minimize stretch marks from pregnancy or weight loss. It may also have some anti-inflammatory properties, so it has been used to clean and protect minor burns and mild skin conditions such as sunburn. Although it has been used as eardrops to relieve earaches and soften earwax, no studies show that olive oil is effective for use in the ear.
When should I be careful taking it?
Individuals with gallstones or gallbladder disease may experience a type of abdominal pain known as biliary colic if they use olive oil.
Because olive oil may irritate the eyes, it should not be applied close to them.
What side effects should I watch for?
No side effects have been attributed to using olive oil in the amounts usually found in foods. In higher doses, it may have a laxative effect or cause mild diarrhea.
What interactions should I watch for?
Individuals with diabetes should avoid using large amounts of olive oil because it may lower blood sugar levels, potentially resulting in hypoglycemia (blood sugar that is too low). Symptoms of low blood sugar include shakiness, sweating, confusion, distorted speech, and loss of muscle control. If not corrected, low blood sugar can lead to unconsciousness and even death. Therefore, olive oil in large amounts may interfere with insulin and oral drugs for diabetes, such as:
Because olive oil may decrease blood sugar levels, taking large amounts of it with other blood sugar-lowering herbal products may also result in hypoglycemia. Herbals that may reduce blood sugar include:
Taking any oil by mouth may interfere with the body's absorption of drugs, herbal products, or nutrients. However, no reports of such interference have been attributed to taking olive oil.
Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals.
Should I take it?
Many different kinds of olives grow on small, knobby, evergreen trees that are native to the Middle East. Believed to be one of the first trees cultivated as a crop, olives have been used for food for centuries. Olive trees grow best in climates that have hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters, but they are able to survive harsh conditions. Generally, olive trees are extremely long-lived, with some individual trees known to be 800 to 1,000 years old. They begin producing fruit at about the age of 6 years. Today, olives are cultivated in parts of Asia, Australia, and the Americas; but the main source of olive products remains the countries that border on the Mediterranean Sea. Because the wood from olive trees is nicely colored with very close graining, it is used for ornamental art pieces. Olive tree leaves are used as an herbal remedy for lowering blood pressure. In addition to its uses in food preparation, olive oil is also used in pharmaceutical manufacturing as a base for drugs that break down in water-based solvents. It may also be included in cosmetics, dental products, and soaps.
Olive fruits are harvested in the winter and they can be picked while they are still green or allowed to ripen to a reddish or black color depending on the species. After the single large seed is removed, some olives are preserved in brine or oil for use as food. Far more olives are crushed and then separated into solid and liquid components. Solids are used for animal feed and the liquids are further extracted to separate the oil from watery components. Olive oil is graded primarily by the amount of oleic acid in it, as well as by its taste, color, and smell. In the United States, Grade A olive oil contains less than 1.4% fatty acid as measured by its content of oleic acid, Grade B has 1.4% to 2.5% oleic acid, Grade C has up to 3.0% oleic acid. Oils with more than 3% of oleic acid are not approved for human consumption in the United States. More often olive oil is classified as "extra-virgin" (up to 1% oleic acid), "virgin" (up to 2%), and "ordinary" (up to 3%). Olive oils labeled as "Light" or "Extra-Light" are lighter in color, but not in calories, than other oils.
As a part of the so-called "Mediterranean Diet", olive oil has been publicized recently for helping to prevent certain diseases. This theory is based on observations that populations living in the countries near the Mediterranean Sea generally tend to have less diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancers than residents of the United States, Canada, and other western countries. Although wide variations exist in the regional and individual eating patterns of the area, one apparently common factor is that very little of the fat in the Mediterranean diet is from animal sources. Typically, olive oil is the main fat source in the Mediterranean diet, which also includes more fish, fruits, grains, and vegetables than the typical "meat and potatoes" western diet. Less of the Mediterranean diet tends to include refined sugar. In addition, food serving sizes are generally much smaller in Mediterranean areas. All these factors may work together to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Dosage and Administration
In clinical studies, oral dosages for olive oil ranged from about one teaspoon to several ounces per day. In general, unsaturated fats are not added to the diet, but rather substituted for saturated fats such as butter.
Even though it comes from a plant rather than animals, olive oil is still high in calories. One tablespoon contains about 120 calories and about 15 grams of fat. Using too much of it or taking olive oil in addition to other fats may result in obesity, which could limit or cancel the health benefits of olive oil.
Topically, olive oil may be applied as often as needed.
When it replaces saturated fats from animal sources, olive oil may help to prevent heart disease and some types of cancer. It may also help to improve blood sugar levels and delay or prevent complications from diabetes. In addition, olive oil may relieve migraine headaches and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Using olive oil seems to have few risks, although it may provoke abdominal pain in individuals with gallbladder disease. It may also cause irritation if it comes in contact with the eyes.
Large amounts of olive oil may result in mild diarrhea.
Because olive oil may have a lowering effect on blood sugar, olive oil may increase the effectiveness of medications and herbal products used for the treatment of diabetes.
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(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)