Your olive oil is adulterated with rancid vegetable oil. While the FDA is too busy closing down honest farmers selling raw milk, the olive oil industry is run by a veritable mafia, making millions by cheating their customers.
Why You Should Eat Olive Oil
Olive oil has many of the health benefits touted by doctors and the media alike . In fact numerous studies have shown that olive oil protects you from heart disease, balances fatty acids in your body, reduces inflammation, and promotes healthy digestion. All these wonderful healing properties are due to the powerful combination of monounsaturated fats and unique polyphenols it contains. Many scientists and nutritionists attribute the longevity of Greeks and Italians to the high amount of fresh, high quality olive oil they consume on a daily basis.
The Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower incidence of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases and certain types of cancer. The apparent health benefits have been partially ascribed to the dietary consumption of virgin olive oil by Mediterranean populations. Much research has focused on the biologically active phenolic compounds naturally present in virgin olive oils to aid in explaining reduced mortality and morbidity experienced by people consuming a traditional Mediterranean diet. Studies (human, animal, in vivo and in vitro) have demonstrated that olive oil phenolic compounds have positive effects on certain physiological parameters, such as plasma lipoproteins, oxidative damage, inflammatory markers, platelet and cellular function, antimicrobial activity and bone health. Source
Olive oil truly is the oil of the gods. In fact new studies have even indicated that fresh cold pressed olive oil possess anti-inflammatory proprieties similar to ibuprofen!
Newly pressed extra-virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal — a compound whose pungency induces a strong stinging sensation in the throat, not unlike that caused by solutions of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen. We show here that this similar perception seems to be an indicator of a shared pharmacological activity, with oleocanthal acting as a natural anti-inflammatory compound that has a potency and profile strikingly similar to that of ibuprofen. Although structurally dissimilar, both these molecules inhibit the same cyclooxygenase enzymes in the prostaglandin-biosynthesis pathway. To read all of the study go here.
According to Mueller (2011), Beauchamp and his colleagues later demonstrated that oleocanthal also reduces the adverse effects of ADDL, highly toxic protein byproducts which are believed to contribute to Alzeimer’s disease.
Most of our olive oil, including extra virgin, virgin, and pure, is diluted with rancid vegetable oil (like cotton seed, soybean, or canola) extracted at high heat and contaminated with chemical solvents. It is still labelled as “pure” or “extra virgin” and you pay top dollar for it!
Unfortunately however, your being on the receiving end of this economic debauchery is the least of your problems. There are very serious health concerns to consider here!
These vegetable oils are processed at high temperatures, which oxidizes the sensitive polyunsaturated fats, producing free radicals. This process is known as rancidification. According to doctor Cate Shanahan, while things like chemical solvents – used to cover the rancid smell – wreak havoc on our livers and the rest of our bodies, reactive molecules resulting from rancid vegetable oil can convert healthy cells into oxidized, damaged ones. Doctor Shanahan compares it to “a zombie invasion” into your bloodstream.
Imagine a zombie movie, filmed at the molecular level, except that the mutated fattys don’t stumble through your bloodstream in slow motion. Using free radicals, mutated polyunsaturated fatty acids convert normal fatty acids into yellow ghouls at the rate of billions per second. I call this conversion-on-contact the Zombie effect. [...] Frying in vegetable oil doesn’t much cook your food as blast them with free radicals – fusing molecules together to make the material solid. Chemists call this series of reactions a free radical cascade. Free radical cascades damage normal polyunsaturated fats, turning them into ugly molecular ghouls. Deep Nutrition, 2011
To read more about vegetable oil extraction and the harmful impact it can have on your health, go here. So a bottle of olive oil diluted with vegetable oil has none of the health benefits you might reap from truly cold pressed high quality olive oil. In fact, it is causing your body even more oxidative stress. Not what you paid for!
Think that it can’t be possible because the FDA has your back? Think again….
In 1903, an investigation by the US Department of Agriculture revealed that adulteration continued apace, even in domestic oils: “The inspection of home-made oils has been so loose that cotton seed oil is put in here at home without paying any freight twice across the Atlantic”, the department’s inspector’s reported. Olive oil adulteration helped prompt the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, a groundbreaking federal law that aimed to remove adulterated foods, poisonous drugs, and harmful patent medicines from commerce, and that gave the Food and Drug Administration new prominence and authority. [...] Continued testing by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, and later by the FDA, revealed extensive adulteration in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s, not only by oil importers but also by certain California producers themselves. In the late 1990s, having failed to halt oil adulteration, the FDA stopped testing for it. Mueller 2011
Yes, you heard that right .”The FDA stopped testing for it in the 1990′s”. So who is checking to make sure we are getting what we are paying for? The grocery stores and restaurants who depend on turning a profit? Nope.
In the early 1990′s Bradley lost a long standing customer to an olive oil wholesaler who underbid him by a wide margin, and whose identity the customer wouldn’t reveal. “We were producing premium extra virgin olive oil in our own mill in Tunisia, as well as buying fruit on the tree in different parts of the world and having it custom crushed to our specifications,” Bradley remembers. “So we knew well what it cost to produce high-grade extra virgin olive oil. And our profit margin was already razor-thin on that key account. Extra virgin olive oil simply could not be produced anywhere in the word at the prices offered by our mysterious competitor. He explained this to his customer but lost the account anyways. Mueller, 2011
The deception goes further and the health concerns get even more serious. According to Mueller, most ocean containers carrying precious olive oil from across the Atlantic are treated with naphthalene, considered a human carcinogen. Here is the toxicological overview of naphthalene.
- Acute exposure to naphthalene can cause adverse effects such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, headache, confusion, profuse sweating, fever, tachycardia, tachypnoea and agitation which may lead to convulsions and coma
- Naphthalene exposure can cause acute haemolysis, particularly in individuals with glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, which is accompanied by anaemia, leukocytosis, fever, haematuria, jaundice and renal and hepatic dysfunction which can possibly be fatal
- Dermal exposure to naphthalene causes mild dermal irritation and in some sensitive individuals may cause dermatitis
- Ocular exposure to naphthalene may cause eye irritation, corneal damage, formation of lens opacities and cataracts
In fact, says one extra virgin olive oil exporter in Mueller’s book, there are millions of tons of produce and foodstuffs moved in ocean containers that have been treated inside with pesticides, and neither shippers, receivers, nor the government officials are aware of the potential problems.
Support Honest Hard Working Famers
Your health and your wallet aren’t the only winners when you choose good quality extra virgin olive oil; it also benefits honest farmers, many of which are going out of business because of the comparative cost of their olive oil. It’s hard enough to convince people to buy your product when its more expensive than the rest of the bottles on the shelf, especially when they are all labeled the same. Traditional, ancient ways of processing real olive juice are dying in places like Italy and Spain because they can’t compete with corrupt companies run by the mob, who are of course supported by government officials.
The olive pickers employed by the De Carlos, members of local families whose ancestors have harvested the family’s fruit for generations, are growing old too old to work in the tress, and the job is too strenuous to attract their children. The rare art of the olive pruner, whom Grazia calls “the tailor of the countryside, the artist who determines whether you’ll harvest this year or just stand by the window and watch” is being forgotten. Hundreds of olive oil producers have gone out of business, and unless the prices for quality olive oil improve, many more will follow. Mueller, 2011
Let’s face it. High quality olive oil from reliable sources is expensive. In the same way that you invest in quality wine, meat, or produce, you should invest in high quality extra virgin olive oil. If you can’t afford it, save up and wait till next time. You’re better off!
What Can I Do?
1. Buy oil you can sample first. Olive oil is supposed to burst in your mouth with bright, rich flavors. If it doesn’t, something is off. Real extra virgin olive oil will contain notes of pepperiness and bitterness, according to Thomas Muller.
These same substances give a high-quality olive oil its pepperiness, bitterness, and other prized sensory properties; in fact, the oil’s healthful properties are directly proportional to the strength of its flavors, aromas, and other sensory characteristics; if an oil doesn’t sting at the back of the throat, it contains little or no oleocanthal. If it isn’t bitter, it’s low in tocopherol and squalene. If it ins’t velvety in texture, the it’s missing hydroxytyrosol. (Table olives, deepening on their cultivar and how they’ve been cured, frequently contain high levels of oleic acid, as well as generous doses of polyphenols and the other precious minor components found in extra virgin olive oil. Mueller 2011
2. Buy oil only in dark bottles that protect against sunlight which can speed up the process of oxidation.
3. Don’t buy too much at one time, as extra virgin olive oil begins to deteriorate soon after you open the bottle.
4. Look for bottles with a “best by” date, or even better, a date of harvest.
5. The color of the olive oil isn’t very informative, because this depends on variety. A bright green color does not necessarily mean high quality. Many savvy businesses have been adding chlorophyll to their oils to make it look greener.
I wish I could tell you more about the scandalous history of olive oil but I am going to stop now and urge you to pick up Thomas Mueller’s book Extra Virginity – The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. Its an eye-opening book that I devoured in just a few sittings. At points I was so angry that I had to pace back and forth in my house to calm down. We should now what is in our food – take your responsibility seriously, and spread the word. Help your dear ones choose real olive oil!
P.S. I am convinced that “extra virgin” olive oil has more benefits for your health than lower grade types. To read why, go here, or stay tuned for my next post!
Mueller T. (2011), Extra Virginity, (1st ed.).New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company
Shanahan, Cate and Luke Shanahan. Deep Nutrition. Big Box Books: Hawaii, 2009.
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