Heeding Hippocrates – The Quest for Natural Health-Protective Food

First published on Huffington Post August 16, 2016.

Green olive branch and a spoon full of oil on the wooden table

Ancient Wisdom – A spoonful of olive oil from early harvest green olives for health.

In the face of the growing body of scientific evidence of the health benefits of the daily intake of High Phenolic Extra Virgin Olive Oil it is hard to believe there are those who say that EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) should not have a health claim in spite of the EU Regulation 432-2012. And there are those who insist that the health-promoting phenols like oleocanthal and oleacein should not be singled out for their efficacy but should be put ‘safely’ into the hands of the pharmaceutical companies to regulate.

Fortunately, the following, among other respected institutions, are more proactive in research into natural health and nutrition. In these three studies reviewed, they look to Greek High Phenolic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, proving the ancient wisdom of food as medicine.

  • University of California Davis (UC Davis)
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),
  • University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM)
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (HSPH)

Greece has over a thousand extra virgin olive oils tested by NMR that meet and exceed the EU criteria for health-promoting phenolic compounds. This article is about three.

On the rising tide of astonishing research into the health benefits of olive oil in the daily diet, Greek EVOOs are riding this wave of change in the olive oil industry. Why is that good news for the health conscious consumer? Well, according to the 2015 Neilson Global Health and Wellness Report,

“Consumers seek fresh, natural and minimally processed foods. Beneficial ingredients that help fight disease and promote good health are also important.

In the world of science, consumers’ voices have been heard and researchers and producers are taking action. But before I tell you about these three enterprising and socially conscious companies,

Olive Harvest in Ancient Hellenic Culture
 

First a line or two of recent and ancient history:
In 2012 the EU approved a health claim labelling regulation which created the new category of High Phenolic EVOO. It stated that olive oils containing a specified amount of polyphenols (phenolic compounds) could put a health claim on the label as it was well researched and documented that High Phenolic live oil has a beneficial effect on the blood lipid level. In simple terms it is good for the heart.

“Olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress.”

In the same year, Dr. Prokopios Magiatis at the University of Athens discovered an accurate way to identify and measure the polyphenols in olive oil using sophisticated Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). His interest was primarily in oleocanthal, the phenolic compound found only in olive oil. Oleocanthal was pulling out front in research for its broad reaching affect on chronic disease like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart attack and stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, Type II diabetes and even cancer. Its effectiveness was proving itself in the prevention, treatment and sometimes reversal of symptoms. Tests on over two and a half thousand olive oils has revealed best harvest and production practices for optimum concentration of phenolic compounds.
Oleocanthal was named by Dr. Gary Beauchamp in 2005. He was curious about the compound’s peppery sensation on the throat, similar to ibuprofen, and discovered its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the root of much illness and herein lies the simple benefit of oleocanthal.

“The health benefits of olive oil are 99%
related to the presence of the phenolic compounds, not the oil itself”,
Nasir Malik, research plant physiologist at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Agricultural Research Service.

The ancient history? Right – over two thousand years ago, olive oil from early harvest green olives was deemed medicinal and separated from medium and late harvest olive oils. Unless rancid, all olive oil is good for you, but some are better than others depending on the type and concentration of phenolic compounds.

Gaea Oil Pouring

A New Category of High Phenolic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In the four short years since 2012, testing of olive oils from countries around the globe have revealed that early harvest green olives do indeed yield the highest levels of phenolic compounds and that olive oils high in healthful phenolic compounds stay fresh and vital longer.

The movement amongst olive growers throughout Greece is nothing short of a revival of the ancient Hellenic standard of excellence in olive oil. The wave is surging into the other olive oil producing countries as testing and research exemplifies the health-protective benefits of High Phenolic EVOO and practices and methods of production are refined.

How deep and wide is the change in Greece? Three companies – a distributor, a family business and an importer are being the change they want to see. Greece is once again reaching out into the world. These three companies not only provide excellent products, are invested in sustainable technology and innovation, but they are each involved in research and consumer awareness for this new category of tested and certified health-promoting High Phenolic EVOO. It is my privilege to share a brief introduction to each.

All the olive oils used for these studies were selected based on the
NMR method of analysis conducted by
Dr. Prokopios Magiatis and Dr. Eleni Melliou
and their team of researchers at the University of Athens.

Melliou and Magiatis Gaea press conference

Taking Responsibility and Raising the Bar  

Gaea Products S.A.

This most proactive olive oil distributor in Greece, led in the entrepreneurial spirit by CEO Aris Kefalogiannis serves international markets. Gaea North America was formed to more efficiently serve that market. They actively promote nationwide in-store consumer and supplier awareness of quality olive oil. Their products include  Extra Virgin Olive Oils, including High Phenolic EVOO, olives, condiments, vinegars and dressings. Their products are gathered from Crete, Kalamata, Sparta and Lesvos and include the varieties Koroneiki, Athinolia, Adramitini

What sets Gaea Apart?

  • Packing technology using nitrogen to preserve freshness of bottled olive oil to ensure freshness.
  • Corporate environmental objective to offset carbon emissions in cooperation with Swiss organisation, myclimate to achieve carbon neutral production.
  • Staff training in organoleptic analysis at ONAOO
  • Social responsibility “Inspire Greece” – supports 40 university graduates to set up innovative agricultural businesses in their hometowns.

Research:

Effects of extra virgin olive oil oleocanthal and oleacein content on platelet reactivity and plasma metabolomics in healthy adults.

Dr. John Newman: University of California at Davis Department of Nutrition and United States Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center (USDA).

Gaea supplied the High Phenolic EVOO and financed this first human trial in the world.

UC Davis:USDA -Gaea EB 2016 Poster (3) copy

Olive Fabrica

The Dafnis Family, father Tassos and sons Spyros and Giorgos, have their olive grove and mill on the island of Corfu. They produce one EVOO, “The Governor”, which is High Phenolic Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the variety Lianolia. The product is available online in Europe and North American as well as in premium fine food shops throughout Europe. All this has happened in 3 short years since they discovered Dr. Magiatis’ research and applied his recommendations for harvesting and milling.

What Sets Olive Fabrica Apart?

  •  Revolutionised harvesting and production of olive oil in Corfu where trees are uncommonly tall reaching up to 25 meters.
  • First quality EVOO from this region – opening potential of region
  • Made early harvest possible by using a tractor-mounted mechanical arm that reaches up and shakes the tree branches releasing the olive fruit without harming the tree.
  • “The Governor” is a unique olive oil with unprecedented levels of oleocanthal and oleacein (seven times higher than the average samples tested since 2009)
  • This oil is being recognised worldwide by top chefs and those seeking health through foods.

Research:

Neuroprotective effects of extra virgin olive oil and oleocanthal in Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Amal Kaddoumi: Department of Biometrics at the School of Pharmacy, University of Louisiana at Monroe, USA,

Olive Fabrica provided The Governor High Phenolic Extra Virgin Olive Oil for this study. The Governor has the highest concentration of oleocanthal in the world.

 

 

Arianna Trading Company

California based company, owned by George Menzelos, imports a single family estate Organic Koroneiki High Phenolic Olive Oil PDO of Sitia, Crete. Arianna also offers high phenolic Organic Throumpa olives, PDO of Thassos Island, with minimal salt and small batch water cured Organic Green and Kalamon olives packed in olive oil. These and other products are available online and in specialty shops in California and on the West Coast.

What Sets Arianna Trading Company Olive Oil Apart?

  • Organic olive oil combining high phenolic content for the health benefits while retaining a well rounded fruit flavour.
  • Competitively priced high phenolic EVOO certified by NMR.
  • Estate bottled, PDO, low acidity, marketed as unblended, raw and unfiltered (naturally decanted) to a health-oriented consumer, the first USDA Organic certified by DIO in all of Crete.
  • Regular tasting promotions in retailers direct with the consumer, exhibit and attend trade shows, seminars and conferences.
  • Collaboration with chefs, cookbook authors, food writers and bloggers to develop awareness and use of High Phenolic EVOO.

Research:

Mediterranean Diet Epidemiological Studies in Workplace Settings – Indianapolis Firefighters Study.

Dr. Stefanos Kales: Department of Homeland Security-Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

Arianna Trading Company is one of the suppliers providing Arianna Organic Raw and Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil for this study.

 

The compelling aspect of this current landmark study is that Firefighters – the first responders – who continuously ‘go into battle’ to save lives – are the focus for a diet and lifestyle that mitigates the stresses of the profession and supports strength, vitality and endurance. The requirement of “high polyphenolic extra virgin olive oil” for this study (30:42 minute mark) hearkens back to ancient times when Greek soldiers carried early harvest olive oil right along with their shield and armour.

In the face of this growing body of proof, who could conscientiously deny its message? Science clearly proves Hippocrates’ ancient wisdom that food is, indeed, our medicine. Naturally.

To your health!

mh

Disclosure: My company Artemis Alliance Inc. owns Aristoleo® Test Kit, a hand-held test to measure oleocanthal and oleacein in olive oil. It was invented by Drs. Prokopios Magiatis and Eleni Melliou and won first prize for Greece Innovates. I support research and public awareness of the health benefits of high phenolic olive oil – among other things

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