The extra virgin olive oil is an exceptional product from a nutritional point of view. It is an important source of fatty acids but with an optimal ration of omega-3 and omega-6 and a high content of oleic acid, vitamin E and antioxidants. Its consumption within a balanced diet has been associated with a reduced incidence of chronic diseases, both metabolic and cardiovascular, and cancer. These positive properties have been supported by both in vitro studies and clinical trials with a control group of healthy patients.
Olive oil is composed by 99.9% of fat and provides 9 kcal per gram. The composition of fatty acids varies based on the cultivar and the agronomic and technical maturity of the drupe at harvesting. A good extra virgin olive oil contains on average about 73% of oleic acid (18:1 monounsaturated), 2.3% linoeic (18:0 saturated), 13.67% palmitic acide (16:0 saturated), 7.8% of linoleic acid (18:2 polyunsaturated) and 1% of α-linolenic (18:3 polyunsaturated).
The minor components are just as critical in determining the oil nutritional, organoleptic and nutraceutical quality. It is thanks to these that olive oil has important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as its characteristic aroma and bitter and spicy taste.
The health properties attributed to extra virgin olive oil are innumerable and attributable to the excellent fatty acid profile, as well as to the countless antioxidant compounds that remain unaltered in virgin oils but not in refined ones:
The health benefits of using olive oil are now well established, in particular if the oil contains at least 5mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives per 20 ml of oil. In this case the presence of polyphenols is believed to be sufficient to contribute to the health benefits mentioned above. The oil can thus carry the label “olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress”.