Ask The Pharmacist: Olive oil reduces cancer and risk of stroke

Suzy Cohen
Olives and the oil they produce are historically among the most important foods of the Mediterranean region. Olive oil loses nutritional value when heated, so stock a less expensive olive oil for cooking and a milder-tasting, extra-virgin olive oil for salad dressings, marinades and drizzling.

Olives are something I’m fanatic about. I’ll eat any kind, any flavor, and time of day or night! I’m obsessed with them.
Olive oil is the liquid fat which comes from the olive tree. It is extremely high in oleic acid, which is known to reduce blood pressure. It also contains a good amount of natural vitamin E, carotenoids and oleuropein. That compound has strong anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects. 

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Olives are fruits, and both the fruit and the oil have medicinal benefits. The main active ingredient in olive oil is oleic acid, some phenols and squalene.

Extra virgin olive oil or EVOO is sometimes referred to as cold-pressed. This type of oil is higher quality, better flavor and lower acidity than plain olive oil. When you see “extra virgin” on the label, that means something good. It means that the oil was mechanically pressed out of the olives, as opposed to using a bunch of chemicals to extract it.  When the oil is squeezed and pressed from the olives mechanically, the vitamins, amino acids and fatty acids are not destroyed.

Olive oil in a glass bottle and green olives isolated over a white background

Olive oil consumption may help reduce incidence of cancer, including colorectal, uterine, breast, prostate, endometrium, ovarian, bladder, lung and pancreatic cancer. Have you heard of the Blue Zone project? These are areas of the planet where people experience health and longevity. Could the olive oil be the main reason that residents of Ikaria (Greece) commonly live to be over 90 or 100 years old?

The most recent news about olive oil is fantastic. Olive oil contains natural phenolic compounds which are strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. They also have anti-thrombotic activity which means it helps reduce the formation of blood clots, which as you know, block the flow of blood to your brain (and/or the heart). Avoiding clots is the way to avoid stroke. 
Oleocanthal, a phenolic component of extra virgin olive oil, acts a little bit like the famous drug ibuprofen! Extra Virgin Olive Oil is like a natural NSAID. 

New research from March 2019 confirms that eating olive oil just once a week will help lower platelet activation (meaning reduce risk of clots). In turn, this lowers risk of heart attack and stroke. People in this study were all obese. Could olive oil confer even higher benefits int hose who have healthier eating habits, a faster metabolic rate and/or lower BMI?  More than likely, yes. 

Olives are shown at the Vintage Olive in Montgomery, Ala., on Wednesday August 3, 2016.

The take home point is that olive oil appears to have strong health benefits to people who are high risk for stroke. Don’t worry about the fat because it’s a healthy fat. One tablespoon of olive oil contains the following nutritional information, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, contains zero sugar, zero cholesterol, 10 grams of monounsaturated fat and about 120 calories.

I believe this oil is among the healthiest natural oils you can consume. I’m not in favor of vegetable oil, rapeseed oil, canola oil or MCT. I do like olive oil, grape seed, avocado, tea seed and pumpkin seed oil.

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit