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Olive oil - Enemy of cancer, heart decease, old age and cholesterol?

Sounds so much like the modern equivalent of the old quest for the elixir of life. Is it true, or is it a beautiful jest? Let's look at the report below:

Why is olive oil so popular?
The Magazine answers�

Sales of olive oil have gone up 39% in the last five years and for the first time outstrip all other oils. Why?

The Mediterranean diet has long been hailed as cutting the risk of a heart attack, with olive oil hailed as the key ingredient.

Scientists believe they have pinpointed the micronutrients in the oil that make it a good heart protector and say introducing it to a diet can have a significant impact.

New research suggests that Britons are taking the advice on board. Annual sales have hit £104m � up 39% since 2000, according to market analysts Mintel.

More money is spent on olive oil than standard oils, such as vegetable and sunflower oil, according to the Edible Oils report.

�The popularity of olive oil has not only been helped by its aspirational value, but also by its association with Mediterranean cooking and the health claims linked with this way of life,� says Claire Birks, senior market analyst at Mintel.

Olive trees were cultivated in the Mediterranean as long ago as 3000 BC. It is the unadulterated juice of crushed olives and contains no additives or preservatives.

It is an oil high in monounsaturates, which means it can help to control cholesterol levels as part of a healthy balanced diet. And its high vitamin E content helps to stave off heart disease.

£65 bottles

The prevention of skin, breast and colon cancer has been linked to properties such as oleic acid and phenols, found in olive oil.

Italy, Spain and Greece are the largest producers. Within each country there is huge diversity of regional flavour and styles, and more than 80 varieties of olives are used in the production of olive oil.
Geoff Davies, director of the Italian Olive Oil Company, based in Sussex, sells top-of-the-range olive oil. It is Italian, single estate, first cold stone pressed, extra-virgin olive oil. He says people thought he was a fool when he started his business four years ago.

�I was selling premier olive oil at £35 for half a litre. Now I consistently sell out of that oil every year and even sell better oil at £65 for half a litre. Olive oil is like wine, when it's gone, it's gone. You can't make it up like engine oil.

�Most people in the UK now have olive in their kitchen. It might be bad quality, but they have it. They are aware of the health benefits and I think it's also because most people now go abroad. They taste it in Mediterranean countries, like it, and so buy it when they are back home.�

The research suggests the most likely consumer is in social class AB, lives in London or the South East and is aged 45 to 54. A separate study says Waitrose and Sainsbury's sell the most.
Dietician Azmina Govindji, of the British Dietetic Association, says publicity about olive oil's link with longevity, plus the influence of celebrity chefs, are key factors in its popularity. And this is one health message that has got through.

�When we encourage people to eat foods, it's always much better received than when we suggest they don't eat it. So actually being allowed to enjoy a food that you would consider to be an indulgence or even banned, is very attractive.

�This is also propelled by the consensus of opinion amongst scientists about the value of olive oil as part of a balanced eating plan.�

Given the premium pricing, it's no surprise consumers tend to be wealthier, she says, so she advises her patients that rapeseed oil has similar properties and is much cheaper.


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