Olive oil, the ‘great healer’

Olive oil, the ‘great healer’

The ancients loved their olive oil. The Greek writer Homer of Iliad and Odyssey fame called it “liquid gold.” It was used to anoint the dead and the heads of kings, besides more pedestrian applications in cooking. One reason why it was so coveted by the old world? Its supposed medicinal qualities.

Indeed, physicians in antiquity prescribed it to treat fevers, hair loss, nausea, ulcers, wounds and even flatulence. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, described olive oil as “the great healer.”

Turns out, Hippocrates might have been onto something.

A study out of Harvard University’s public health college found that olive oil might substantially lower the risk of premature death. An analysis of health and dietary data collected from more than 90,000 people found that heavy olive oil consumers had a 19% lower risk of total mortality. These are folks who consumed more than seven grams of liquid gold a day.

The olive oil crowd also lowered their risk of dying of several diseases. They had a 19% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, 17% lower risk of dying from cancer and a 29% lower risk of dying from a neurodegenerative disease.

Researchers, who tracked data gathered over nearly 30 years, described their analysis as the first long-term observational study of its kind.

Compared with ingesting margarine, butter, mayonnaise or dairy fat, olive oil consumption was also associated with a lower risk of premature death.

Investigators say clinicians might encourage their patients to replace some fats, like butter and margarine, with olive oil. The current study, however, is silent on the question of whether it cures flatulence.


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