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U.S. Dietary Committee Recommends Mediterranean Diet for Healthy Living

The United States Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee released new dietary guidelines for the Mediterranean diet in their 2015 Scientific Report, suggesting Americans should follow the Mediterranean dietary model for better health.

The 2015 DGAC report is designed to provide Americans with the best dietary recommendations from 14 leading experts in nutrition. Recommendations come from the most recent research on nutrition, providing guidelines for federal policy, nutrition programs, businesses and hospitals.

The report, which is prepared for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, suggests in order to receive optimal nutrition, prevent disease and illness and maintain a healthy weight, people should follow a collaboration of three dietary patterns: the Healthy U.S. dietary pattern, the Healthy Vegetarian dietary pattern and the Healthy Mediterranean dietary pattern.

These models were designed by experts based on their staples and recommended intakes. Research shows that eating high quantities of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, low or nonfat dairy and seafood constitute a healthy diet.

All the recommended foods are staples in the Mediterranean diet, which shares common elements with the other two dietary patterns.

The DGAC also released a chart outlining the recommended daily intake of each food group within all three dietary models. Intakes of these foods are based on caloric intake.

In the Healthy Mediterranean dietary plan, the DGAC says the normal adult should be eating two and a half to three cups of fruit a day and two and a half to three and a half cups of vegetables. Red and orange vegetables topped the charts with a weekly recommendation of five and a half to six cups. Dark greens and legumes are recommended for less consumption with only one and a half to two cups per week.

The DGAC also recommends adults following the Mediterranean diet eat six to eight ounces of grains a day, while protein, which includes meat, soy, seafood, nuts, seeds and eggs, should be consumed at a rate of six to seven and a half ounces per day. Dairy should be limited to a daily two cups, and oil intake should be between 22 and 31 grams a day.

The DGAC Scientific Report is in its viewing stage and is accepting written comments from the public until May 8.


To Filter or Not Filter? Well, it Depends.

Filtered or non-filtered? Cloudy or Clear? Asked how they prefer their olive oil, people tend to be in one camp or the other, for reasons they’re not quite sure of and often with little basis in facts.

Producers of extra virgin olive oil weigh the implications of filtering on the quality of their product through its shelf life and the often divergent preferences of their customers.

With the aim of bringing a little clarity to the filter-or-no-filter question, researchers at the University of California at Davis Olive Center set out to review the scientific evidence on the effects of filtration. What they found in a report released today, is that, while each option has its pros and cons, the answer remains a little murky.

The effects of filtration depend on the chemical and sensory profiles, quality of the initial oil, the type of filter aid and system, and storage conditions.- UC Davis Olive Center

To make olive oil, olives are washed and crushed into a paste that is stirred (or,malaxed) before being pressed, or spun in a centrifuge. What’s left after removing the water is unfiltered olive oil.

Those little bits floating around include pieces of olives, water and enzymes that make the oil cloudy in appearance. Some people find unfiltered olive oil to be more flavorful. Others look at the ominous sediment at the bottom of the bottle and think the oil has gone bad.

Filtering the oil removes the suspended solids, resulting in a clearer appearance. But it might also remove some of the healthy phenolic compounds and actually decrease the shelf life of the oil, depending on the type of filter used.

“The suspended solids contain water and enzymes that impair oil stability, increase fermentation and degrade the oil’s sensory quality,” the Davis researchers found. “By removing these solids, filtered oil has less water activity, clearer appearance, less green color, and no deposits in the storage container.”

“On the other hand, the literature also shows that filtration can have negative impacts on a variety of parameters.”

So which is better? Filter or unfiltered? As it turns out, the Davis team discovered, research suggests the effect of filtration depends on “the chemical and sensory profiles, quality of the initial oil, the type of filter aid and system, and storage conditions.”

Which means producers need to take those factors and the myriad of other moving parts of olive oil production into consideration to determine which filtration technologies, if any, will yield the best results.

As for the rest of us, it could just remain a matter of personal taste.

UC Davis Report: A Review of the Influence of Filtration on Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive Oil-Enriched Diet During Pregnancy Can Benefit the Unborn Through Adulthood

A recent study has shown that a diet rich in olive oil has a positive effect on the development of the unborn child and may also affect her adult life.

“During the gestation, there is a great incorporation of fatty acids into the fetal brain, in order to maintain the adequate development,” explained one of the authors of the study, Prof. Marilise Escobar Burger. “Since olive oil is consumed in the Mediterranean diet with great results, the idea was that the olive oil, with a favorable fatty acids profile, could be good as well in the prenatal period.”

The joint study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology of the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM) and from the Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences of the University of Milan (DiSFeB).

Olive oil during perinatal period seems to be able to prevent oxidative damage and improve the expression of protective neurotrophins in the adult brain – Camila Simonetti Pase, Federal University of Santa Maria

The researchers evaluated the influence of different diets on rodent pups: a group of female rats received a diet enriched with 20 percent olive oil (OOED) and one group was subjected to a standard diet (CD). They monitored their pups at various times — pregnancy, lactation, and after weaning until the pups’ adulthood — and measured oxidative and molecular brain parameters and weight during their lives, achieving very positive results for levels of prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.

At adulthood, animals in the group OOED showed less brain lipid peroxidation and higher levels of glutathione sulfhydryl groups in the prefrontal cortex and lower brain levels of reactive species in the hippocampus.

Interestingly, the group of animals whose diet was changed from a CD to OOED 21 days after birth showed a greater weight than the group that remained the same original diet (OOED) to adulthood.

It was also interesting that the consumption of OOED during pregnancy and lactation significantly increased the prefrontal cortex expression of trophic molecules that play an important role in neuronal plasticity and cognitive function.

“The new fact about this study is that olive oil diet during perinatal period seems to be able to prevent oxidative damage and improve the expression of protective neurotrophins in the adult brain,” researcher Camila Simonetti Pase (UFSM) explained. “The neurotrophins evaluated in our work (BDNF and FGF-2),” added Verônica Tironi Dias, are related to cellular survival, plasticity and protection from neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases.”

The idea of the study and the joint collaboration started when Dr. Angélica Martelli Teixeira, who used to work with fatty acids in Brazil, got in touch with the Italian researchers of the University of Milan during an exchange program in Italy for her PhD.

Marco Andrea Riva works in a laboratory dedicated to psychiatric disorders and factors that may affect the risk of developing them in the pre- and perinatal period. “There is a clear evidence that exposure to stress makes the individual more vulnerable and more susceptible to develop diseases, such as depression or schizophrenia, later in life especially if they are exposed to stressful events during early life. Different factors can affect brain structure and function, not only those related to the environment but also nutritional elements,” he explained.

The study adds to a body of research that show how diets rich or poor in fats or in sugar may have effects on the mechanisms of brain function and functional recovery after traumatic injuries.

“This research supports the evidence that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, already during the prenatal period, make the brain more plastic, more dynamic and therefore, probably, more resistant to any negative environmental stresses in adult life,” Prof. Riva concluded.

The results open a line of pioneering research on feeding and adjuvant therapeutic strategies and on the potential of healthy eating habits to prevent neonatal conditions and their influence on adult life.


Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM) – University of Milan

Mediterranean Diet with Extra Virgin Olive Oil Lowers Risk of Breast Cancer.

The Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil is beneficial in lowering risk of breast cancer, according to findings of a new study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine.

The results, based on the long-term follow-up of 4,282 women, aged 60 to 80 years enrolled in the PREDIMED trail, add to the benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil and the Mediterranean diet. The PREDIMED trial, conducted in Spain from 2003 to 2009, was designed to test the benefit of supplementing Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts in preventing cardiovascular disease.

In the present study, investigators evaluated the effects of supplementing the Mediterranean diet with either EVOO or mixed nuts on risk of breast cancer.

The subjects enrolled in the study were randomly assigned to one of the three intervention groups: the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil; the Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts; or the control Mediterranean diet.

To ensure adherence to the intervention diets, subjects on the Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil were provided with 1 liter of EVOO/week, while those in the mixed nut group were provided with 30 grams of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds per day. Participants in the control diet group were provided dietary training to reduce dietary fat intake.

Results of the study showed that subjects on the EVOO supplemented Mediterranean diet had a 62 percent lower risk of developing malignant breast cancer than subjects on the control diet. Subjects who consumed higher amounts of EVOO lowered their risk of malignant breast cancer even more.

The positive effect of extra virgin olive oil could be due to the presence of polyphenols such as oleuropein, oleocanthal, hydroxytyrosol and lignans in EVOO that have been identified as anticarcinogenic agents. These polyphenols exhibit anti- proliferative action on the expression of human oncogenes, prevent oxidative damage to DNA in mammary epithelial cells, inhibit tumor growth and cause apoptosis of breast cancer cells in laboratory experiments.

Although statistically nonsignificant, subjects on the Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts also had a lower risk of malignant breast cancer compared to the control group. However, when results of both intervention diet groups were combined, risk of malignant breast cancer was reduced by 51 percent. Only 35 cases of malignant breast cancer were identified during the course of the randomized trial.

While these results are encouraging, the authors acknowledge that the study has limitations, one of which is that these results are a secondary analysis of the PREDIMED trial that was designed to study effect of EVOO and mixed nuts intervention of the Mediterranean diet on prevention of cardiovascular risk.

Another limitation is that the study was conducted on women who habitually consumed the Mediterranean diet, which is known to be protective against breast cancer due to the high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil. Researchers of the paper recommend more studies to confirm these findings.


Unsaturated Fats and Whole Grain Carbohydrates Associated with Lower CHD Risk.

A recent study provides a simple and effective way of reducing the risk of coronary heart disease – replace saturated fats such as those found in red meat and dairy products with high-quality carbohydrates and unsaturated fats such as olive oil, other vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health reached this conclusion based on analysis of data from two large studies in the US that spanned a period of 24 to 30 years.

Although saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease, recent studies failed to find any association between intake of saturated fats and risk of coronary heart disease. Such results created a controversy and led to the TIME magazine “Eat Butter.”

Replacing saturated fats and refined carbohydrates with unsaturated fats such as olive oil and whole grain carbohydrates may help lower risk of heart disease. Harvard School of Public Health.

But the real reason, according to the authors of the present study, could very well be that the type of fat and carbohydrates used to replace the saturated fats affects the risk of coronary heart disease differently.

In an attempt to address this question, the present study, the first of its kind, set out to compare the risk of heart disease with intake of saturated fat, unsaturated fats and different types of carbohydrates.

The investigation included 84,628 healthy women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study and 42,908 healthy men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, who had no history of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Food frequency questionnaires, completed at the start of the study and every 2 to 4 years thereafter by the subjects provided dietary, medical and lifestyle information for the duration of the study. There were 7,667 cases of coronary heart disease over the course of the study.

The results of the study, reported on September 28, 2015 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that when subjects reduced their intake of saturated fats, they replaced calories from saturated fats with calories from low-quality carbohydrate foods such as white bread, rice or potatoes rather than whole grain carbohydrates or unsaturated fats.

The premise that removal of saturated fats from the diet would suffice in lowering risk of coronary heart disease was proved wrong when analysis of data revealed that risk of heart disease was higher when consumption of refined carbohydrates and added sugars was increased. Refined carbohydrates appear to be as unhealthy for the heart as saturated fats, according to the paper.

On the other hand, higher intake of whole grain carbohydrates was associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Similarly, higher intakes of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats were also associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

The authors estimated that replacing five percent of the energy from saturated fats with five percent energy from polyunsaturated fats lowered heart disease risk by 25 percent. Likewise, replacing five percent of the energy from saturated fats with a similar amount of energy from monounsaturated fats reduced CHD risk by 15 percent and by nine percent when replaced with energy from whole grain carbohydrates.

According to the study, replacing saturated fats with refined carbohydrates is not beneficial in preventing heart disease.

Findings of this large and long-term study indicate that replacing saturated fats and refined carbohydrates that are part of the Western diet with unsaturated fats such as olive oil and whole grain carbohydrates typical of the Mediterranean diet may help lower risk of heart disease.

TIME magazine “Eat Butter.”

Diet heavy on olive oil cuts breast cancer risk by 62%, study says.

Τhe fight against breast cancer may begin in the kitchen. A new study suggests that women can dramatically reduce their risk of the disease by following a version of the Mediterranean diet that goes heavy on extra virgin olive oil.

Data from a large, randomized clinical trial show that women who did so were 62% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer compared with women who were simply asked to reduce the overall amount of fat in their diets. The results were published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Exercise pumps up effectiveness of breast cancer therapy, study finds

The clinical trial, known as PREDIMED, was designed to assess the cardiovascular benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups – Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil, Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, or a regular low-fat diet.

After tracking nearly 7,500 people for about five years, the researchers had compelling evidence that those who were on either type of Mediterranean diet had better heart health than their counterparts who weren’t. The trial was ended in 2010.

Although the study’s main focus was cardiovascular disease, researchers also tracked the incidence of five types of cancer, including breast cancer. Among the 4,282 women who participated in the trial, there were 35 confirmed cases of invasive breast cancer. (Cases ofductal carcinoma in situ, or Stage 0 breast cancer, were not tracked.)

The risk of being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer was highest for women who were advised to eat less fat – 2.9 cases for every 1,000 person-years. That compared to a diagnosis rate of 1.8 cases per 1,000 person-years for women who were on the Mediterranean diet with extra nuts and a rate of 1.1 cases per 1,000 person-years for women who were on the Mediterranean diet with additional extra virgin olive oil.

In the raw analysis, the women in the extra virgin olive oil group were 62% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer during the course of the study than were women in the regular low-fat group. After accounting for a variety of factors such as the age, body mass index, exercise and drinking habits of the women, the breast cancer risk was 68% lower for the extra virgin olive oil group compared with the low-fat group.

Sticking to Mediterranean diet nearly halves heart disease risk.

The women who followed the Mediterranean diet with extra servings of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds were about 40% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than their counterparts on the low-fat diet. However, considering the small number of breast cancer cases, that difference wasn’t large enough to be statistically significant.

The researchers repeated their analysis without the women who were diagnosed with breast cancer during the first year of the study – presumably before the dietary interventions had a chance to make a difference. The results were “hardly changed,” the researchers wrote. The same was true when they included reported breast cancer cases that weren’t confirmed by examining biopsied cells.

The women in the extra virgin olive oil-heavy Mediterranean diet group got 22% of their total calories from the oil, on average. However, the researchers wrote that getting at least 15% of total calories in the form of extra virgin olive oil “seems to be instrumental for obtaining this significant protection.”

There are lots of reasons to think that extra virgin olive oil could be a potent cancer-fighter, the study authors wrote. It is rich in oleic acid, a substance that helped kill breast cancer cells in laboratory experiments. It’s also high in squalene, a compound that has antioxidant effects in breast cells.

‘Angelina effect’: When Jolie talked about her breasts, women listened

Extra virgin olive oil also contains several polyphenols with pharmacologic effects. Among them, oleocanthal has been found to block the spread of breast cancer cells; oleuropein seems to induce breast cancer cells to self-destruct; hydroxytyrosol counteracts damageto breast cells caused by reactive oxygen species; and lignans have been associated with a reduced breast cancer risk.

The study is the first prospective randomized clinical trial to see whether a Mediterranean diet can offer women protection from breast cancer. But more trials are needed to get a better understanding of the link between the two, the researchers wrote.

In particular, they wrote, future studies should include more women and more cases of breast cancer. All of the women in the PREDIMED study were white, between the ages of 60 and 80 and had Type 2 diabetes or at least three risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, too much “bad” cholesterol or a history of smoking. That means these findings may not apply to women who are younger, in better health or from other racial groups.

Even so, women would have nothing to lose – and potential much to gain – by eating more like the people in the Mediterranean, according to Dr. Mitchell H. Katz, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The Mediterranean diet “is known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and is safe. It may also prevent breast cancer,” he wrote in an editor’s note that accompanied the study. “We hope to see more emphasis on Mediterranean diet to reduce cancer and cardiovascular disease and improve health and well-being.”

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Greece gets something Right!

Greece’s economy may be pressed on all sides by austerity measures, capital controls, and political forces within and without. But as the October start of the olive harvest approaches, some of the country’s entrepreneurs see a rare opportunity to take market share from Spain and Italy, the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 producers of olive oil. Lousy weather, a mysterious tree disease, and a fruit fly that feasts on olives have decimated groves in Italy. Nearly a tenth of the 10 million trees in Puglia are infected with a disease that has been dubbed “olive ebola” (some scientists believe it is the bacterium called Xylella fastidiosa), which slowly kills the trees. As a result, Italy’s olive oil producers are bracing for another bad season, on the heels of a 34 percent decline in output in 2014-15, to 302,000 metric tons, according to data from the Madrid-based International Olive Council (IOC). Production in Spain fell by more than half, to 825,700 tons, in the most recent season, and will likely remain depressed due to a prolonged drought. Greece saw its output more than double in the previous season, to 300,000 tons, and the local industry is hopeful it will be close to that in the coming season. Thanks to this combination of factors, Greek olive oil is more competitive than ever, at least on a price basis. According to a June report from the council, wholesale prices for extra-virgin categories from Italy and Spain have surged 114 percent and 84 percent this year, respectively, to €5.66 ($6.25) per kilo and €3.59 per kilo. In contrast, prices for Greek oil have climbed just 24 percent, to €3.09 per kilo. The price advantage is helping small and midsize producers who make up most of Greece’s olive oil industry find new markets. The IOC reports Greek exports from the most recent harvest to the U.S., now the world’s top olive oil consumer, rose 28 percent from October 2014 through June of this year, while exports from Spain and Italy both dropped more than 50 percent. At Costco Wholesale, 2-liter bottles of the retailer’s Kirkland Signature extra-virgin olive oil sport a cap tinted Aegean blue, in place of a green cap, a subtle reference to the company’s switch this year from Italian to Greek oil. Depending on crop conditions, “It can be tough for us to source all of our product out of Italy every year,” says Chad Sokol, a buyer for Costco in Northern California. “It’s fantastic oil coming out of Greece. It doesn’t have cachet with Americans yet. But we think it will.” Greece is home to more than 520,000 olive growers, many of whom rely on traditional methods such as handpicking the fruit. Cold pressing, where a machine crushes the olives to extract the oil without the aid of heat or chemicals, is the norm. This qualifies four-fifths of Greece’s oil to carry the higher-quality extra-virgin designation, compared with about two-thirds in Italy and a third in Spain. All the same, Greece’s Mediterranean rivals have done a better job selling consumers on their methods and purity, according to many experts, including Tom Mueller, who wrote Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. He contends that about 70 percent of the olive oil sold in the U.S. isn’t extra-virgin, though it’s labeled as such. (A 2011 study by the University of California at Davis Olive Center found that nearly three-quarters of top-selling imported brands failed to meet international standards for the extra-virgin designation.) “Italy makes some beautiful olive oils. But they have been riding on the coattails of the Greeks, buying olives from all over the Mediterranean and passing it off as Italian olive oil,” says David Neuman, who heads the North American subsidiary of Athens-based Gaea Products. “This is the moment when Greece can recapture some of that market.” Gaea aims to do just that. Its chief executive officer, Aris Kefalogiannis, the son of a conservative political family from Crete, started a shipping logistics company before switching to olive products in the mid-1990s. He says Gaea logs about $14 million in sales annually and expects that to rise to $16 million this year. The company has already made inroads in Germany and is pushing to boost sales in the U.S. In February it hired Neuman, who previously ran Lucini Italia, a Miami-based purveyor of Italian olive oils, vinegars, and pasta sauces. Gaea’s packaging and branding have been revamped, with an emphasis on telling the story of Greece’s traditional methods of making olive oil. The company is also adding more organic oils and packaged olives to its lineup. “Greece has the potential to be the organic grove of Europe,” says Kefalogiannis. In July, Whole Foods Market began selling Gaea’s oils and olives at many of its stores in the Northeast. “Customers are more interested than ever in tasting new varietals and experimenting with new flavors,” says Dwight Richmond, the company’s global grocery purchasing coordinator. He and others compare olive oils to wines, suggesting that U.S. consumers could create a boom across all price ranges. Gaea is a prime example of the “small-sized but dynamic” companies that Gregory Antoniadis, president of the Greek Olive Oil Packers Association, says are helping elevate the profile of what the poet Homer called “liquid gold.” Other companies include Eleia, Minerva Edible Oils Enterprises, and Agrovim. Antoniadis’s organization saw exports double from 2005 to 2012, and he expects them to double again by 2017. “Greek producers can make some modest gains this year,” says Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center. However, to make sustained progress, Greece’s olive oil industry will have to overcome the lingering effects of droughts in 2012 and 2013 that stunted production, fend off the diseases devastating the Italian olive groves, and weather the financial crisis that is making credit scarce. Says Flynn: “One question is whether Greek olive oil can achieve the status of Kalamata olives and Greek yogurt among consumers.” The bottom line: Soaring prices for Italian and Spanish olive oil led to this year’s 28 percent increase in U.S. imports of Greek oil.   http://www.bloomberg.com/

Athens Acropolis olive tree


Atop the Acropolis of Athens stands an olive tree that is a symbol of hundreds of years of dedication and reverence. Although this is not the ‘original’ tree honoured by pious Athenians over 2,500 years ago, it nonetheless stands in roughly the same spot as the original. The tree was an important foundation myth for Athens as it established the primacy of the goddess Athena within the city that would take her name.
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Olive oil and breast milk


They certainly don’t look alike or taste alike for that matter, but olive oil and breast milk are surprisingly similar.

Extra virgin olive oil contains omega 3 and omega 6 in similar portions to breast milk fat and the same percentage of linoleic acid making it an indispensable food for the myelination of nerve fibres and brain development. It is easy to digest and helps gastric functioning, preventing the phenomenon of constipation and colic.

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Independent: Olive oil could help to reverse heart failure, scientists claim



Olive oil could help reverse a patient’s heart failure “immediately”, scientists have claimed.

Oleate – the fat found in the golden liquid – could help a diseased heart pump blood more effectively and use body fat as fuel, researchers at the University of Illinois have found.


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