The Mediterranean diet and consumption of olive oil have been connected in several studies with longevity and a reduced risk of morbidity and mortality. Lifestyle, such as regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and the existing social cohesion in Southern European countries have been recognised as candidate protective factors that may explain the Mediterranean Paradox. Along with some other characteristics of the Mediterranean diet, the use of olive oil as the main source of fat is common in Southern European countries. The benefits of consuming olive oil have been known since antiquity and were traditionally attributed to its high content in oleic acid. However, it is now well established that these effects must also be attributed to the phenolic fraction of olive oil with its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial activities. The mechanisms of these activities are varied and probably interconnected. For some activities of olive oil phenolic compounds, the evidence is already strong enough to enable the legal use of health claims on foods. This review discusses the health effects of olive oil phenols along with the possibilities of communicating these effects on food labels.
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