|Source: Nick Fraser|
How does olive oil work, if it's just an oil? One "active ingredient" may be oleuropein. In a study on elderly mice, oleuropein significantly increased collagen production and growth of epithelial tissue over several days. It was found that the oleuropein raised levels of VEGF, a growth factor which promotes wound healing. Olive oil could also change the expression of what was once thought to be untouchable: our genes. In a double-blind, randomised crossover trial, volunteers with metabolic syndrome were given olive oil-rich breakfasts with either a low or high phenol content. They all followed the same diet during this period too. The phenols in olive oil were found to modify the expression of 98 different genes, some of which were directly involved in inflammation. Aging is now sometimes known as "inflammaging", because most, if not all, age-related diseases have underlying inflammatory causes.
Olive oil could also have positive effects on another end-point of antiaging: mortality reduction. For this study, the results from the over forty thousand Spanish participants of the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) were used. During 13 years of follow-up, the highest quartile of olive oil consumption was linked with a 26% lower risk of dying when compared to those who did not consume any olive oil. There was also a 44% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. With every increase in olive oil intake of 10 grams, there was a 7% reduced risk of dying from any cause. There appeared to be a greater protective effect in people who did not smoke.