Beware Fake Olive Oil... Even If It's Not Poison

The epidemic started with an eight-year-old boy in Madrid, pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital.

Hundreds more died in the following mass poisoning in central Spain. And some 20,000 were hurt... All tricked with toxic "olive oil" sold by door-to-door salesmen and local merchants.

That oil turned out to be rapeseed oil cut with an industrial dye aniline. Cause of death: "toxic oil syndrome," which starts with fever and lung problems, then quickly develops into dozens of other symptoms like muscle atrophy and skin lesions.

The exact chemical reason behind poisonous oil is still unknown today. So although the International Olive Council tightened standards after the event, that doesn't mean you should buy olive oil in unlabeled jugs from a white van on the street.

Still, the more likely unscrupulous "fake olive oil" you see in headlines or even encounter on store shelves today are adulterated olive oils.

Two complex studies from the University of California Davis Olive Center showed that some extra virgin olive oils sold in the U.S. fail the adulteration test for these reasons:

  1. Oxidized because it was exposed to too much heat, light, or had been on the shelf too long.
  2. Mixed with cheaper oils or with refined, heavier olive oil.
  3. Made with damaged or overripe olives, wasn't processed correctly, or was stored poorly.

These factors make for poor-tasting olive oil... but they aren't dangerous for your health.

If you want to find the best olive oil...

Check the label. Some of the cheaper brands claim to be from Italy, but if you look at the back of the bottle, the label probably lists several countries where the olives might be from.

Now for this week's Q&A...

Q: What do you think about avocado oil as a substitute or supplement for olive oil? – R.B.

A: That's a great question. We like olive oil because it has many more scientific studies behind it than avocado oil. That said, avocado oil does have a good profile of healthy fats similar to those in olive oil. And it has a high smoke point, meaning it's better for cooking at higher temperatures (think frying and sautéing).

So our problem really is a lack of well-researched studies. There are two studies we found suggesting avocado oil may change how our livers function, which could lead to fatty liver disease. And there's a lone Indian study suggesting some avocado exposure might change human DNA in our lymph cells (yikes!). And it's important to remember, some of the beneficial studies receive funding from "Big Avocado" – the Hass Avocado Board. That doesn't necessarily mean there aren't any benefits, but it's something to keep in mind.

Another big deterrent for avocado oil – the price. It's much more expensive than olive oil despite similar proven health benefits.

If you want to use avocado oil, we'd suggest only using it for high-heat cooking. Keep using olive oil for everything else. And no matter which oil you prefer, remember to avoid processed oils – anything that says "partially hydrogenated." That's a sure way to ruin your health.

Q: Looking for your "how to claim free money" article, but I can't the information. Help? – S.B.

A: Right now, there are tens of billions of dollars in unclaimed money in the U.S. Various banks, state treasuries, and other groups hold these funds waiting for the proper owner to step forward. You might have a forgotten insurance policy or stray paycheck that could show up... But more likely, you'll find these accounts for a deceased relative.

We recommend running a check today. We like and to find out what could be in your name. And don't forget to check for missing IRS refunds, including ones marked undeliverable. For this, you'll need your Social Security number, your filing status, and the amount of the refund you expected. Find out more right here.

Q: You discussed stops regarding stocks; do you have suggestions regarding stops on options. I have struggled with knowing when to cut losses on options. – D.R.

A: Stop losses are an essential part of my options-trading strategy. In Retirement Trader, I recommend that people set stop losses between 20% to 25%.

Let's take a look at an example... In this case, we'll use a 25% stop loss for a covered call.

Say you sold May $25 covered calls on stock XYZ. You bought shares of XYZ for $25 and, because you're selling calls, you collect a premium of $1. That means your total outlay – basically what you spend to open the trade – is $24 (the $25 stock price minus the $1 you received in call premium).

Remember, though, that you are buying 100 shares for every call option you sell against the stock. So the total cost of your trade is $2,400.

To figure out the stop limit, just take the combined value of the position and multiply it by 75%.

In this case, the combined value was $2,400 (cost of the shares minus the premium income)... $2,400 multiplied by 75% is $1,800. This gives you an $18 stop loss.

Now, because you'll have to buy the call back to close out the trade, you have to take that into your calculation.

Let's say that the option is trading for $0.25. You'd need to spend $0.25 to buy back the option. So you'd want to close the trade if shares hit $18.25 to account for that $0.25.

The most important thing to remember is to sell when you hit your stop.

Please keep sending your questions, comments, and suggestions to us... [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
February 28, 2020