Olive oil (OO) is the most representative food of the traditional Mediterranean Diet (MedDiet). Increasing evidence suggests that monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) as a nutrient, OO as a food, and the MedDiet as a food pattern are associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and hypertension. A MedDiet rich in OO and OO per se has been shown to improve cardiovascular risk factors, such as lipid profiles, blood pressure, postprandial hyperlipidemia, endothelial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and antithrombotic profiles. Some of these beneficial effects can be attributed to the OO minor components. Therefore, the definition of the MedDiet should include OO. Phenolic compounds in OO have shown antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, prevent lipoperoxidation, induce favorable changes of lipid profile, improve endothelial function, and disclose antithrombotic properties. Observational studies from Mediterranean cohorts have suggested that dietary MUFA may be protective against age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. Recent studies consistently support the concept that the OO-rich MedDiet is compatible with healthier aging and increased longevity. In countries where the population adheres to the MedDiet, such as Spain, Greece and Italy, and OO is the principal source of fat, rates of cancer incidence are lower than in northern European countries. Experimental and human cellular studies have provided new evidence on the potential protective effect of OO on cancer. Furthermore, results of case-control and cohort studies suggest that MUFA intake including OO is associated with a reduction in cancer risk (mainly breast, colorectal and prostate cancers).
Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.