Sep 302013

Today National Public Radio’s segment, Morning Edition, discussed foods with health claims. Olive oil was among them.

If you click on the NPR logo below you will be directed to an article about the segment, select Listen to the Story and you will be able to listen to the audio program featuring olive oil. The transcript to the audio is printed here beneath the button.



It’s MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I’m Steve Inskeep.


And I’m David Greene.

We’re sorting out some health food claims this morning, like kombucha. Is this fermented brew really good for you? We’ll find out in a moment. But first, olive oil. The truth: not all oils are created equal.

NPR’s Allison Aubrey reports on what you need to look for to make you’ve got the good stuff.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: If you pay any attention to health trends, you’ve likely heard about the Mediterranean diet. This is a pattern of eating that includes lots of vegetables, grains and fish – not so much meat – and generous portions of olive oil.

MARY FLYNN: Olive oil is a very healthy food. I consider it more medicine than food.

AUBREY: That’s Mary Flynn. She’s an associate professor of medicine at Brown University. And she says the evidence that olive oil is good for your heart has never been more clear. She points to a big study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, where researchers in Spain had men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who were at risk of heart disease follow one of three diets. Some ate a low-fat diet. Another group ate a Mediterranean diet with nuts. And a third group ate a Mediterranean diet that included nearly four tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil per day.

FLYNN: So, they could compare the three diets: Was it nuts, was it olive oil, or was the low fat diet as beneficial?

AUBREY: And what researchers found was that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil cut the risk of heart attack and strokes by about 30 percent. Researchers even stopped the study early, since the benefits were so clear.

TOM MUELLER: The fact is, there are a huge range of different health benefits of real extra-virgin olive oil.

AUBREY: That’s Tom Mueller. He has spent the last six years investigating and writing about olive oil. He says olive oil is good for two reasons. It’s mostly unsaturated fat, and extra-virgin oil – which is the highest-grade and least-processed form of olive oil – contains a whole range of other beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. But here’s the catch: Unfortunately, it turns out that more than half of the extra-virgin olive oil imported into the U.S. has been shown to be sub-standard.

MUELLER: It’s quite often just very low-grade oil that doesn’t give you the health benefits and doesn’t give you taste of that extra-virgin should give you.

AUBREY: In fact, a study from UC Davis found that 69 percent of imports tested failed to meet a USDA quality standard. And Mueller says, in some cases, the oil is just too old. By the time the imported olive oil reaches us, it’s often been shipped from place to place, and sometimes not stored well. And even if it isn’t noticeably rancid, many of the heart-healthy compounds have degraded or fizzled out.

MUELLER: Extra-virgin olive oil is fresh-squeezed olive juice. It’s a fruit juice. Therefore, freshness is a critical question.

AUBREY: Mueller says the FDA used to police olive oil imports to ensure producers were meeting quality and freshness standards. But those efforts have fallen off. So where does that leave those of us who want to get our hands on the healthy stuff? Well, for starters, Mueller says look for brands that carry a harvest date on the bottle. California Olive Ranch oil – which is sold in lots of chain supermarkets nationwide – has a date clearly stamped on the back of the bottle.

I met up with Gregg Kelley of California Olive Ranch at a Safeway grocery store.

GREGG KELLEY: So this is a harvest date. Every single bottle produced by California Olive Ranch includes the date the olives were harvested to produce the oil in the bottle.

AUBREY: And he says the olives were pressed very quickly, so the oil is really fresh.

KELLEY: The most important thing for consumers to remember when they’re purchasing extra-virgin olive oil is it is not wine. It does not get better with age. So olive oil never gets better than the day it was produced.

AUBREY: Now, as long it’s properly stored, the freshness will hold in the bottle, at least for a while. Some bottles now carry an expiration date. But as soon as you open the bottle and expose the oil to oxygen and light, it will slowly start to degrade. So Tom Mueller says don’t make the same mistake his family made.

MUELLER: I grew up with terrible oil. I grew up with a huge tin in my grandparent’s cabin, and that was olive oil for me. And it was moldy and fusty, and it was there for years.

AUBREY: Many factors determine how quickly an olive oil goes bad. But studies suggest once you’ve opened it, you should consume it within four to six months.

Now, oils with the highest levels of heart-healthy compounds tend to be pungent and peppery. And Mueller says if the oil stings the back of your throat a little, that tells you that those beneficial polyphenols really are there. I got the chance to experience this during a tasting of fresh imported oils at Greg Bonaduce’s(ph) olive oil shop in Brooklyn.


AUBREY: Mm-hmm.

BONADUCE: This is an organic Coratina, and it was grown in Peru, and it was just crushed in April.

AUBREY: We did feel that tickle, and it made us both cough.

BONADUCE: That pungency…


BONADUCE: This is definitely a two-cougher.


AUBREY: And Mueller says that’s what you’re looking for.

MUELLER: Once you have that taste, you get used to the little bitterness and the little pungency, you never go back. It’s a completely different experience.

AUBREY: And the healthy one, too.

Allison Aubrey, NPR news.

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May the sun shine through your branches.

Sep 202013

I just read an interesting provisional study by Hady Keita, Eduardo Ramírez-San Juan, Norma Paniagua-Castro, Leticia Garduño-Siciliano and Lucía Quevedo published in the DMS Journal (Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome). The study is about rats that were fed high doses of extra virgin olive oil.

Yes, they gained a lot of weight. Yes, their insulin resistance increased. BUT their cholesterol levels were reduced and the interior walls of their vascular and lymph systems remained healthy. Here is a link to the entire study.

Below is the provisional abstract.

It has been hypothesized that fatty acids derived from a diet high in saturated fat may negatively affect endothelial function more significantly than a diet high in unsaturated fat; nevertheless, the effects of the long-term ingestion of monounsaturated fatty acids on endothelial function have been poorly studied.

To examine the chronic effects of monounsaturated (e.g., extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)) or saturated (e.g., margarine (M)) fatty acid-rich diets on the development of insulin resistance and endothelial dysfunction in rats, three groups of rats were fed control, high-EVOO or high-M diets for 20 weeks. Body weight, energy consumption, insulin resistance, lipid peroxidation and in vitro vascular reactivity with and without metformin were assessed during the study period.

Both high-fat diets produced obesity and insulin resistance. EVOO-fed rats showed smaller increases in total cholesterol and arterial lipid peroxidation when compared with M-fed rats. Vascular reactivity to phenylephrine and sodium nitroprusside was not modified, but the vasodilating effect of carbachol was especially reduced in the M-fed rats compared with the EVOO-fed or control groups. Metformin addition to the incubation media decreased the vascular response to phenylephrine; decrease that was lower in rats fed with both high fat diets, and increased the carbachol and nitroprusside effects, but the metformin-enhanced response to carbachol was lower in the M group.

Our results suggest that feeding rats with high quantities of EVOO, despite producing obesity and insulin resistance, produces low levels of circulating cholesterol and arterial lipoperoxidation compared to M fed rats and shows a preserved endothelial response to carbachol, effect that is significantly enhanced by metformin only in rats fed with control and EVOO diets.”

Interesting. Right?

May the sun shine through your branches.

Sep 192013

I found a video for us to enjoy on how to grow olives. It’s for the home gardener and is from the Better Homes and Gardens Australia website. Here is the link to the companion article.

In the video the host, Graham Ross, mentions a pruning technique to help encourage olive trees to grow fruit or grow more fruit. It’s this practice, opening up the canopy to let in the sunlight and air, that inspired my closing good wishes for all of my readers (see bottom of article ↓).

After you have fruit on your olive trees you absolutely must eat some, BUT not straight away. They’ll need to be pickled first. Also from Better Homes and Gardens are instructions on how to pickle your own olives.

“Step 1: Pick then sort olives, removing any that are damaged or deformed. Remove odd stems and leaves from olives to be cured. Rinse well with water.
Step 2: Place olives on a cutting board. Prick each several times with a fork or make 3 slits in skin using a serrated knife.
Step 3: Put 10 cups water into a clean bucket. Add ½ cup sea salt or cooking salt. Put olives in bucket, ensuring all are submerged – you can put a plate on top to keep olives under solution, if required.
Step 4: Pour out and replace saltwater with fresh saltwater each day. Do this for about 12 days for green olives and about 10 days for black olives.
Step 5: Bite into an olive to test – if bitterness is almost gone, your olives are ready for final salting.
Step 6: Pour off and measure last lot of saltwater so you know how much brine to make.
Step 7: Measure and put that quantity of warm water into a pan. Add and dissolve salt at a ratio of 1 cup salt to 10 cups water. Bring to the boil. Allow to cool.
Step 8: Put olives into a jar. Pour brine over them until all are submerged. Top jar with 1cm of olive oil, tightly screw on lid to seal and put in a cool cupboard. You can store your olives like this for at least 12 months.
Step 9: When you’re ready to eat, pour out brine and fill jar with clean, cool water. Leave in refrigerator for 24 hours, then bite to test. If they’re too salty, empty water and replace with fresh water. Leave in fridge for another 24 hours and test again. Repeat until your olives are just as you like them.”

May the sun shine through your branches.