It’s fairly common knowledge these days that there are some really important health benefits associated with consuming olive oil. No doubt, one of the reasons that the Mediterranean diet turns out to be so healthful is because it is rich in olives and olive oil. And this may explain why following the Mediterranean diet is associated with significant risk reduction for things like breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even dementia.
But it’s been a bit challenging to try to delineate specifically what it is about olive oil that makes it so special as it relates to health. There are multiple chemicals found in olive oil that are bioactive in a positive sense, and new research has identified yet another chemical and mechanism that may explain why olive oil is so good for us.
Scientists at Virginia Tech have discovered that olive oil is rich in a chemical compound called oleuropein. What is unique about this compound is that it seems to play an important role in helping the body secrete insulin, one of the key regulators of glucose metabolism. It’s also been recognized that insulin plays a central role in health and functionality of brain cells. So, enhancing insulin is good for the brain both directly, as well as secondarily through helping to control blood sugar. Understanding that olive oil consumption helps reduce the risk for diabetes is also important as it relates to the brain, since diabetes dramatically increases the risk for dementia.
As Bin Xu, the lead researcher of the new study stated:
Our work provides new mechanistic insights into the long-standing question of why olive products can be anti-diabetic… We believe it will not only contribute to the biochemistry of the functions of the olive component oleuropein, but also have an impact on the general public to pay more attention to olive products in light of the current diabetes epidemic.
I strongly believe that this is a call for consuming more olive oil. We’ve got to get over our fear of fat (yes, olive oil is pure fat) and embrace the life and health sustaining properties of this important class of food.