Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Characteristics and Proprieties

Extra Virgin Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive (Olea europaea; family Oleaceae), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. Olive oil is used throughout the world, but especially in the Mediterranean.

Retail grades

  • Extra-Virgin olive oil (EVOO) comes from virgin oil production only, contains no more than 0.8% acidity, and is judged to have a superior taste. Extra Virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries. It is used on salads, added at the table to soups and stews and for dipping.

 

  • Virgin Olive Oil comes from virgin oil production only, has an acidity less than 2%, and is judged to have a good taste.

 

  • Pure olive oil. Oils labeled as Pure olive oil or Olive oil are usually a blend of refined and virgin production oil.

 

  • Olive oil is a blend of virgin and refined production oil, of no more than 1.5% acidity. It commonly lacks a strong flavor.

 

  • Olive-pomace oil is refined pomace olive production oil possibly blended with some virgin production oil. It is fit for consumption, but may not be described simply as olive oil. Olive-pomace oil is rarely sold at retail; it is often used for certain kinds of cooking in restaurants.

 

  • Lampante oil is olive oil not suitable as food; lampante comes from olive oil’s long-standing use in oil-burning lamps. Lampante oil is mostly used in the industrial market.

 

  • Refined olive oil is the olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods that do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams (0.3%) and its other characteristics correspond to those fixed for this category in this standard. This is obtained by refining virgin olive oils with a high acidity level and/or organoleptic defects that are eliminated after refining. Over 50% of the oil produced in the Mediterranean area is of such poor quality that it must be refined to produce an edible product. Note that no solvents have been used to extract the oil but it has been refined with the use of charcoal and other chemical and physical filters. An obsolete equivalent is “pure olive oil”.

Evidence from epidemiological studies suggests that a higher proportion of monounsaturated fats in the diet is linked with a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease.] This is significant because olive oil is considerably rich in monounsaturated fats, most notably oleic acid.

Another health benefit of olive oil seems to be its property to displace omega-6 fats, while not having any impact on omega-3 fats. This way, olive oil helps to build a more healthy balance between omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats.

Olive oil contains the monounsaturated fat oleic acid, having antioxidants such as vitamin E and carotenoids, and oleuropein, a chemical that prevents the oxidation of LDL particles. It is these properties that are thought to contribute to the health benefits of olive oil.

As they are the least processed forms of olive oil, extra virgin or virgin olive oil have more monounsaturated fat than olive oil. These types of olive oil contain more polyphenols, leading to a healthier heart and lower “bad” cholesterol.

Preliminary research indicates that olive oil could possibly be a chemopreventive agent for peptic ulcer or gastric cancer, but confirmation requires further in vivo study. Olive oil was also found to reduce oxidative damage to DNA and RNA, which may be a factor in preventing cancer.

A high consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are found in most types of vegetable oil including olive oil, may increase the likelihood that postmenopausal women may develop breast cancer. A similar effect was observed on prostate cancer. Other analysis suggested an inverse association between total polyunsaturated fatty acids and breast cancer risk.

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