Today we’re diving deeper into the health story of olive oil with a focus on diabetes. Diabetes, one of the most prevalent diseases in the world, impairs the body’s ability to process blood sugar. Left unchecked, it can damage vital organs and other tissues and lead to heart disease or stroke. The bad news is that it’s becoming increasingly common, but the good news is that lifestyle factors (including a Mediterranean diet) can help to both prevent and manage diabetes.
With that said, it seems that olive oil is a critical component of the Mediterranean diet’s impact on diabetes. An interesting study conducted in Rome observed blood sugar and triglyceride levels on two groups that ate the same Mediterranean lunch (vegetables, fruit, fish, legumes), but one group added 10 grams of olive oil while the other group added 10 grams of corn oil. They found that the olive oil group had much lower rises in blood sugar following the meal compared to the corn oil group, and they also had lower levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol. So it seems that it’s the specific combination of a Mediterranean diet plus olive oil that makes the difference.
Olive oil also aids in the prevention and management of diabetes. In a study comparing olive oil consumption versus the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, participants who consumed the highest amount had a 16% reduced risk for developing the disease. But just as notably, participants who had already developed Type 2 diabetes significantly reduced their hemoglobin A1c and fasting glucose levels (measures of blood sugar) by supplementing with olive oil.
And the health benefits of olive oil extend beyond blood sugar control. People with diabetes are more susceptible to amyloid diseases (conditions like Alzheimer’s) because of insulin resistance and inflammation. Emerging research in animal studies have shown that a polyphenol in olive oil, OLE (oleurepein), can reduce amyloid production and inflammation associated with neurogenerative disease.
How does olive oil achieve these amazing results? First, it increases insulin levels in the body by protecting insulin-producing cells. And secondly, its potent antioxidants reduce oxidative stress—or the cellular damage that results from high blood sugar levels. Finally, olive oil is highly anti-inflammatory. Olive oil contains numerous anti-inflammatory polyphenols, but one in particular, oleocanthal, showed anti-inflammatory effects that were similar to ibuprofen.
Time and time again, we see that olive oil is one of the most powerful foods to add to our diet. Just remember, it’s the inclusion of high quality, extra virgin olive oil in a Mediterranean diet that reaps such amazing health benefits. Stay tuned for the next and final post in this series where we’ll take a closer look at the connection between diabetes and neurogenerative diseases.
**Disclaimer: This content does not constitute personalized medical or nutritional advice. Any blog readers should seek their own medical advice before making any decisions related to their nutrition and health.