Extra virgin olive oil is considered much more than a condiment and a real medicine food. Extra virgin olive oil is obtained by mechanical pressing of the olives without resorting to chemical treatments. For several years now, science has been interested in the properties of extra virgin olive oil and its health benefits. So let's see what extra virgin olive oil can do to improve our health, what are the differences compared to olive oil and what happens during cooking.
Extra virgin olive oil, properties
Extra virgin olive oil is a concentrate of beneficial substances that make it an anti-inflammatory food, able to contribute to the prevention of various age-related diseases such as cardiovascular problems, neurodegenerative diseases but also diabetes and tumors (Serreli et al, Cells, 2020). Not only that, it seems that extra virgin olive oil is even able to act on the aging processes themselves, favoring processes that preserve the length of telomeres. Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes and gradually shorten over time, ultimately causing cell death in the normal aging process. Therefore, longer telomeres also mean longer life! The merit of these properties is due to the precious substances contained in extra virgin olive oil, such as polyphenols, tocopherol and carotenoids, which counteract inflammation and damage from free radicals (Serreli et al, Cells, 2020). Extra virgin olive oil is also rich in fatty acids, first of all oleic acid immediately followed by linoleic, palmitic, stearic and linolenic acid. Thanks to the substances that compose it, extra virgin olive oil protects the heart, by helping to regulate systolic blood pressure, improving the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of blood vessels, counteracting the formation of thrombus, increasing HDL cholesterol and protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidation (Gaforio et al, Nutrients, 2019). The oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol is considered one of the most important indicators for cardiovascular risk and is also associated with other conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Finally, a diet that involves a large use of extra virgin olive oil is also protective for the brain. In fact, a study observed that people who followed the Mediterranean diet including extra virgin olive oil had better cognitive function than those who did not follow this type of diet or who followed it but did not use extra virgin olive oil (Martinez-Lapiscina et al, J Nutr Health Aging , 2013).
Extra virgin olive oil and olive oil
The two types of oils have the same composition of monounsaturated fatty acids, mainly oleic acid. However, they differ in the presence of other substances, such as tocopherol, terpenes, squalene and phenols, present in extra virgin olive oil but unfortunately almost completely eliminated in olive oil due to the chemical refining processes to which it is subjected (Rus et al, Nutrients, 2020). Therefore, as regards raw use, extra virgin olive oil is certainly a richer source of antioxidants, thus showing a more powerful anti-aging action than olive oil (Owen et al, Lancet Oncol, 2000). As far as cooking is concerned, the two types of oils showed very similar behavior. In fact, when used for frying, both oils have shown stability with slightly better results for extra virgin olive oil (Casal et al, Food Chem Toxicol, 2010). Not only that, still with regard to frying, both extra virgin olive oil and olive oil release a lower amount of toxic compounds than other plant based oils used for frying (Fullana et al, J Agric Food Chem, 2004).
Extra virgin olive oil and cooking
A research has established that exposure to heat during cooking preserved some of the nutritional values ??of extra virgin olive oil since substances such as oleic acid and some antioxidant compounds have remained stable. In particular, the oil had been subjected to a heat of 180° C for 36 hours (Allouche et al, J Agric Food Chem, 2007). The extra virgin olive oil has proved resistant even if subjected to frying for a prolonged time (Casal et al, Food Chem Toxicol, 2010). However, as regards the beneficial properties of extra virgin olive oil, it should be emphasized that it is the use of raw extra virgin olive oil that keeps the properties of this food to the maximum. In fact, cooking always reduces some beneficial compounds, such as polyphenols, which are reduced by 40% if the oil is subjected to a heat of 120° C and by 70% if it is subjected to a heat of 170° C (Lozano Castellon et al, Antioxidants , 2020).