The search to reverse aging and live forever has fueled human pursuits since the beginning of time...
Medieval alchemists sought to create a philosopher's stone that would grant immortality. Explorer Juan Ponce de León looked for a Fountain of Youth in Florida.
So far, no one has discovered the key to immortality. The average life expectancy is just under 73 years. But other species enjoy much longer lives than us...
Olive oil trees are native to the Mediterranean coastline, which borders countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. A single olive tree can live for 1,500 years.
Now, an olive tree's longevity could very well be a coincidence...
But a new olive oil study shows that maybe it's not a coincidence at all, which I'll explain in a moment.
Turns out, enjoying olive oil predates written language, which emerged around 3,500 B.C.E.
In 2013, an excavation team unearthed an 8,000-year-old clay pot in Northern Israel. Inside, scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem sampled olive oil residue that got wicked up by the container's porous structure. This residue is the oldest olive oil artifact that we've discovered so far.
Olive oil also plays a huge role in written history throughout time...
It was used in religious ceremonies for offering and anointing. Ancient civilizations – like the city of Ebla, whose annual yield was 155 tons of olive oil circa 2,400 B.C.E. – gifted it to royal families and neighboring allies. It was traded and sold around the world. It provided illumination as fuel for oil lamps, was enjoyed as food, and was valued as a medicine and skin moisturizer.
The ancient Egyptians believed olive oil was a gift bestowed on mankind from the gods. In Egyptian mythology, Isis – the magical healer and goddess of life – taught man to farm the olive tree and extract its oil.
The ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates (known as the "father of medicine") called olive oil "the great healer." He used olive oil to make ointments for treating wounds.
In Europe during the Middle Ages, olive oil was a remedy for people suffering sore throats, cuts, and bruises.
Today, olive oil is so popular that it's produced on every continent in the world except Antarctica.
A new study out of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health adds to our ever-growing body of evidence. Researchers used 28 years of data, from two long-term nutrition studies (the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study), to analyze olive oil's effect on longevity.
Participants (60,582 female and 31,801 male) were grouped into the following categories, based on their typical olive oil consumption:
- Never, or consumed less than one time per month
- As much as one teaspoon (4.5 grams) per day
- More than one teaspoon and as much as half of a tablespoon (7 grams) per day
- More than half of a tablespoon per day
Most people in the highest consumption category ate two-thirds of a tablespoon per day (9 grams). And compared to those who didn't eat olive oil, folks eating half a tablespoon – or more – each day were:
- 17% less likely to die from cancer
- 18% less likely to die from respiratory illness – like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD"), for example
- 19% less likely to die from cardiovascular illness – like heart disease or stroke, for example
- 29% less likely to die from neurodegenerative illness – like Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease, for example
Researchers also found replacing just three-fourths of a tablespoon (10 grams) of other fats – like butter, margarine, or mayonnaise – each day with olive oil lowers your risks of dying sooner, from all causes, by up to 34%.
So, if you want to live longer, eat olive oil...
And not just any olive oil. Choose extra virgin olive oil ("EVOO"), which is the least processed form. As such, EVOO retains more of the natural vitamins and antioxidants from the olives used to make it. Eat at least 2 tablespoons every day.
I've been saying this for years.
Do what I do and prepare food with olive oil whenever you can. Bake with it using a simple conversion – four parts butter is equal to three parts olive oil. So, if your recipe calls for one tablespoon of butter, you can use three fourths of a tablespoon of olive oil instead. I even like to pour some on a plate and add spices for dipping bread into – like garlic, basil, parsley, and crushed red pepper (if I'm feeling particularly bold).
What We're Reading...
- A Doc classic: Take two tablespoons and call me in the morning.
- A chef challenges the conventional olive oil wisdom.
- The world's best olive oils 2019/2020.
- Something different: The secret lives of kitchen appliances.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
February 8, 2022