Tuesday, 19 November 2013



Top 5 Health Benefits of Olive Oil

By Elena Paravantes
Olive Oil Times Health Editor | Reporting from Athens
Olive oil truly is liquid gold with its many health benefits. Considered the most important component of the traditional Mediterranean diet, this extraordinary fruit juice and its effects are still not fully understood.
Yet some of the ways olive oil can preserve and improve human health have been firmly established. Here are the five most scientifically supported health benefits of olive oil today.

1|It Can Help Lower Your “Bad” Cholesterol

Top 5 Health Benefits of Olive Oil | Olive Oil Times

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), also known as the “bad cholesterol” transports and deposits cholesterol in the tissues and arteries, which can eventually cause plaque and block the artery.

Monounsaturated fats can lower LDL thus protecting against atherosclerosis. Plus, this type of fat does not affect the levels of High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) known as the “good cholesterol,” which carries all cholesterol away from the arteries, and high levels of which are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.

Olive oil is one of the best sources of monounsaturated fats and has the advantage of being less susceptible to oxidation. In addition, oleic acid, a fatty acid abundant in olive oil, appears to also protect from oxidation of LDL.
It is important to note that to achieve this reduction in bad cholesterol you cannot just add olive oil to a diet rich in saturated and trans fats and expect a miracle.
You must replace the unhealthy fats with olive oil in combination with a Mediterranean-style diet.

2|Olive Oil Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure

Top 5 Health Benefits of Olive Oil | Olive Oil Times

Several studies for different age groups, and with a large number of participants, have found that the consumption of olive oil is associated with a decrease in blood pressure.
The SUN (Seguimiento University of Navarra) study with over 6,000 participants found that olive oil intake reduced the incidence of hypertension in men, while another Spanish study published this month in the American Journal of Hypertension found that a diet containing polyphenol rich
olive oil reduced blood pressure in young women with mild hypertension.

Results from the the Greek component of the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) which included over 28,500 volunteers concluded that olive oil intake is inversely associated with both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

While it appears that the polyphenols in the olive oil may be responsible for this action, researchers have demonstrated that oleic acid; a fatty acid in olive oil may also induce this lowering effect.

3|Eating Olive Oil Can Help Prevent Cancer

Top 5 Health Benefits of Olive Oil | Olive Oil Times

Olive oil consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer.

A review conducted by Greek researchers from the University of Athens published last year of 19 observational studies, with over 36,000 participants, found that higher rates of olive oil consumption were associated with lower odds of having any type of cancer.

Another review of 25 epidemiological studies concluded that “preferring olive oil to other added lipids, particularly those rich in saturated fats, can decrease the risk of upper digestive and respiratory tract neoplasms, breast and, possibly, colorectal and other cancer sites.”

4|It Protects from Oxidative Damage

Top 5 Health Benefits of Olive Oil | Olive Oil Times

Apart from the monounsaturated fats in olive oil and specifically oleic acid, olive oil has another component that other sources do not have: polyphenols.

Polyphenols are phytochemicals, components that have antioxidant activity.

Olive oil contains certain polyphenols that, along with oleic acid, appear to protect the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the body.

Researchers for the Eurolive Study Group found that consumption of olive oil at real-life doses of about 2 tablespoons per day improved the fatty acid profile in LDL, associated with a reduction of the oxidative damage to lipids.

It appears that oxidized LDL is an important contributor to atherogenesis; the process of plaque buildup in the arteries that eventually can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

This is an approved claim for olive oil in the European Union: “Olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress.”

It is important to note that only polyphenol rich extra virgin olive oils may have this effect, not refined olive oil, which does not contain these substances.

5|Olive Oil Can Help Cognitive Function

Top 5 Health Benefits of Olive Oil | Olive Oil Times

Although olive oil is better known for its protection against heart disease and cancer, there is an emerging amount of research regarding the effect of olive oil on cognitive function and, specifically, on cognitive decline associated with aging.

Generally, the type of fat consumed can affect cognitive function. A recent study from from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, analyzed data from 6,000 women over the age of 65, a subset of the Women’s Health Study.

They found that women who consumed the highest amount of monounsaturated fats, which can be found in olive oil, had better patterns of cognitive scores over time.

But it appears that olive oil specifically has a protective effect. Results from the Three City Study, an ongoing multicenter study of vascular risk factors for dementia using information from almost 7,000 participants, showed that individuals who had moderate to intensive use of olive oil had lower odds of cognitive deficit for verbal fluency and visual memory compared to individuals who had never used olive oil.

How much of a good thing?

When looking at the different studies in regards to the protective effect of olive oil for various conditions the amount generally ranges between 25 and 40 grams per day, or about 2-3 tablespoons.

Dietary fat types and 4-year cognitive change in community-dwelling older women



Adding 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil Can Improve Blood Vessel Function

By Elena Paravantes
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Athens
Adding 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil Can Improve Blood Vessel Function | Olive Oil Times
Vuk Nikolić

Adding just two tablespoons of olive oil each day can improve blood vessel function.

The addition of a small amount of olive oil to the diet appears to improve endothelial function according to a new study by U.S. and Italian researchers
The endothelium is a group of cells that line the interior of blood vessels. When these cells are not functioning properly, it may lead to atherosclerosis-hardening of the arteries.

Researchers from the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases of Mayo Clinic and College of Medicine and the Dipartimento di Scienze Farmaceutiche of Florence examined whether the addition of olive oil to the diet would affect the function of the endothelium.

For the study, 88 patients with early atherosclerosis (endothelial dysfunction was present) were recruited. Fifty two completed the 4 month double-blind, randomized trial.

The original aim of the study was to compare the effect of a daily intake of 30 ml of simple olive oil, with 30 ml of EGCG (a type of antioxidant) supplemented olive oil, on endothelial function.

After 4 months, both groups had improved endothelial function, but there were no differences between the 2 groups. In other words, the plain olive oil was as effective as the EGCG supplemented olive oil.

The researchers noted that supplementation with olive oil seems reasonably easy and relatively cheap dietary measure to improve endothelial function and perhaps alter the progression of atherosclerotic disease.

Well not only easy and cheap, but also a good-tasting one.

European Journal of Nutrition

Wednesday, 13 November 2013



Olive Oil Health Benefits

The health benefits of olive oil are extensive with new positive attributes discovered all the time. One prominent cardiologist recommends at least two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day to enjoy the many ways olive oil can be beneficial to your health and well being.
In addition to bolstering the immune system and helping to protect against viruses, olive oil has also been found to be effective in fighting against diseases such as:
Cancer: The phytonutrient in olive oil, oleocanthal, mimics the effect of ibuprofen in reducing inflammation, which can decrease the risk of breast cancer and its recurrence. Squalene and lignans are among the other olive oil components being studied for their possible effects on cancer.

Heart Disease: Olive oil helps lower levels of blood cholesterol leading to heart disease.

Oxidative Stress: Olive oil is rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin E, long thought to minimize cancer risk. Among plant oils, olive oil is the highest in monounsaturated fat, which doesn’t oxidize in the body, and it’s low in polyunsaturated fat, the kind that does oxidize.

Blood Pressure: Recent studies indicate that regular consumption of olive oil can help decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Diabetes: It has been demonstrated that a diet that is rich in olive oil, low in saturated fats, moderately rich in carbohydrates and soluble fiber from fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains is the most effective approach for diabetics. It helps lower “bad” low-density lipoproteins while improving blood sugar control and enhances insulin sensitivity.

Obesity: Although high in calories, olive oil has shown to help reduce levels of obesity.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Although the reasons are still not fully clear, recent studies have proved that people with diets containing high levels of olive oil are less likely to develop rheumatiod arthritis.

Osteoporosis: A high consumption of olive oil appears to improve bone mineralization and calcification. It helps calcium absorption and so plays an important role in aiding sufferers and in preventing the onset of Osteoporosis.

Olive Oil Might Help Prevent Strokes

According to a new study from France, older individuals who consume olive oil daily may be able to protect themselves from a stroke.
The study which is part of the Three-City Study, an ongoing multicenter study of vascular risk factors for dementia, was published in the online issue of Neurology.

Researchers gathered information from the medical records of 7,625 individuals over the age of 65 from three cities in France: Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier. None of the participants had a history of stroke. They then categorized the individuals into three groups based on their olive oil consumption.
The researchers noted that the participants used mostly extra virgin olive oil, as that is what is usually available in France.
After 5 years there were 148 strokes. The results showed that the “intensive” users of olive oil, those that used for both cooking and dressings had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those that did not use olive oil at all. These results were noted even after considering weight, diet, physical activity and other risk factors.


Olive Oil Diet Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Traditionally a low fat diet has been prescribed to prevent various diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. While studies have shown that high fat diets may increase the risk of certain diseases such as cancer and diabetes, it appears that it is the type of fat that counts rather than the amount of fat. We now know that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats such as the ones found in olive oil, nuts and seeds actually protects from many of these chronic diseases.

A recent Spanish study published in the scientific journal Diabetes Care showed that a Mediterranean style diet rich in olive oil reduces the risk of type II diabetes by almost 50 percent compared to a low fat diet. Type II diabetes is the most common and preventable form of diabetes.


Olive Oil Keeps the Heart Young

A diet rich in olive oil may be able to slow down the aging of the heart. It is a known fact that as we grow older the heart also goes through a normal aging process. The arteries may not function as well as they did and this can lead to a number of health problems.
However, in a recent study, Spanish researchers discovered that a diet rich in olive oil or other monounsaturated fats could improve the arterial function of elderly individuals.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, compared the effect of a Mediterranean style diet rich in olive oil with that of a low fat high carbohydrate diet and a diet rich in saturated fats and concluded that the diet rich in olive oil resulted in the reduction of endothelial damage and dysfunction.


Olive Oil Fights Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by a decrease in bone mass, which in turn causes the architecture of bone tissue to become fragile. This can then increase the possibly of fractures, making even the slightest of knocks potentially fatal for sufferers.
The disease is recognized as being particularly prevalent among postmenopausal women for whom a decrease in the production of estrogen then weakens bone structures and most commonly affects the ribs, wrists, and hips.
For this study, scientists were particularly interested in how a supplementation of olive oil could be used to help women in this category.
Tests were carried out on rats showing comparable conditions to female human menopause, with one group being treated orally with olive oil.
At the end of the experiment, blood samples were collected and tested for levels of calcium, phosphorus, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), malondialdehyde (MDA), and nitrates.
The results found that that rats not treated with olive oil showed a significant decrease in calcium levels and a significant increase in plasma ALP, MDA, and nitrates levels.
Olive oil supplementation proved to be beneficial and was found to both attenuate these changes and to positively affect the thickness of bones.


Olive Oil May Protect from Depression

It is common knowledge that olive oil and the Mediterranean diet confer a multitude of health benefits. But what about emotional health benefits? According to Spanish researchers from the University of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, a diet rich in olive oil can protect from mental illness.
The study included 12,059 volunteers who were part of the SUN Project, a prospective study among Spanish university alumni, aimed to identify the dietary determinants of stroke, coronary disease and other disorders. The researchers followed these volunteers for over 6 years and gathered data on lifestyle factors such as diet as well as medical history. At the beginning of the study none of the volunteers suffered from depression, and by the end of the study, 657 new cases were detected.
The data revealed that volunteers that had a high intake of trans fats, a hydrogenated fat found mainly in processed foods, had up to 48 percent increased risk of depression compared to volunteers who did not consume these fats . In addition, the researchers discovered that a higher intake of olive oil and polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish and vegetable oils was associated with a lower risk of depression. According to the researchers these findings suggest that cardiovascular disease and depression may share some common mechanisms related to diet.


Olive Oil Found to Help Prevent Skin Cancer

A study conducted by Dr. Niva Shapira from Tel Aviv University in Israel and Bob Kuklinski of Rockstock University in Germany found that olive oil, along with other components of a Mediterranean diet, may contribute to the prevention of malignant melanoma.  Malignant melanoma, which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, may be slowed down by consumption of olive oil, which is rich in antioxidants.
The research showed that the body develops a resistance to the damaging rays of the sun due to carotenoids. Carotenoids are the color pigments found in fruits and vegetables such as watermelons, tomatoes, pumpkins and carrots. Olive oil has also been found to protect the skin against the damaging effects of UV rays.


The Mediterranean Diet and Metabolic Syndrome

The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been cited in numerous studies, and now with a new large study confirming that it protects from metabolic syndrome we have yet another reason to adopt this style of eating.
Dr. Antonis Pothoulakis, an interventional cardiologist at the Iasis Clinic in Chania, Crete told Olive Oil Times that the metabolic syndrome is a combination of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and high blood sugar.

“Metabolic syndrome is connected to the obesity epidemic of our time, a big belly poisons our metabolism and a poisoned metabolism can result in type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, or sudden death,” he said.
The new study included data from almost 535,000 people, with the conclusion that a Mediterranean style diet, which includes consumption of monounsaturated fats mainly in the form of olive oil, daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and low-fat dairy products, weekly consumption of fish, poultry, legumes, and a relatively low consumption of red meat, may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.


Explaining Why Virgin Olive Oil Protects Against Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Western countries. Research carried out with animal models demonstrate that a diet rich in fats is directly related to the incidence of cancer. Some types of fats however can play a protective role against the development of these tumors.
Such is the case of virgin olive oil, rich in oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, and containing several bioactive compounds such as antioxidants.
A moderate and regular intake of virgin olive oil, characteristic of the Mediterranean diet, is associated with low incidences of specific types of cancer, including breast cancer, as well as with having a protective role against coronary diseases and other health problems.


Last updated on Friday 20 September 2013
Originally published on Wednesday 18 September 2013
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are considered a healthy dietary fat, as opposed to saturated fats and trans fats.

In this Medical News Today information page, there is a brief description of olive oil, its health benefits, nutritional value, and how different types of olive oil are classified.


What is olive oil?

Olive oil is a fat obtained from the fruit of the Olea europaea (olive tree), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean region, where whole olives are pressed to produce olive oil.
The oil is used in cosmetics, medicine, cooking and soaps, and was also used as a fuel for traditional lamps. Although originating in the Mediterranean countries, today it is used worldwide.

Greece has the highest olive oil intake per person in the world. Greeks consume, on average, 24 liters per-person-per-year, according to the North American Olive Oil Association1. Spaniards and Italians consume about 15 and 13 liters-per-person-per year, respectively.

What are the health benefits of olive oil?

Over the last 50 years, there have been thousands of studies examining the health benefits of olive oil. Below are some examples:


Olive oil and the cardiovascular system

Olive oil is the main source of dietary fat in the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with a low death rate from cardiovascular diseases compared to other parts of the world.
Maria-Isabel Covas, at the Parc de Recerca Biomèdica de Barcelona, Spain, carried out an extensive review of studies that had focused on the biological and clinical effects of olive oil.

The study was published in the journal Pharmacological Research2.
The study found that people who regularly consume olive oil are much less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and hyperlipidemia (high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels).

Covas also found that regular olive oil intake helps reduce inflammation, endothelial dysfunction (problems with the inner linings of blood vessels), thrombosis and carbohydrate metabolism.

Covas concluded "The wide range of *anti-atherogenic effects associated with olive oil consumption could contribute to explain the low rate of cardiovascular mortality found in Southern European Mediterranean countries, in comparison with other western countries, despite a high prevalence of coronary heart disease risk factors."

*Anti-atherogenic means preventing the hardening of the arteries and the development of atherosclerosis.


Frying with olive oil does not raise heart disease risk

People who regularly eat foods fried in olive oil do not have a higher risk of heart disease or premature death, researchers at the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain reported in the BMJ (British Medical Journal).

In this study, Professor Pilar Guallar-Castillón and colleagues surveyed 40,757 adults aged from 26 to 69 years over an 11-year period. They focused on the people's cooking methods and dietary habits. None of the participants had heart disease when the study started.

The team defined fried meals as food that had only been prepared by frying it. Participants were also asked whether their fried food was sautéed, battered or crumbed.

The researchers concluded:
"In a Mediterranean country where olive and sunflower oils are the most commonly used fats for frying, and where large amounts of fried foods are consumed both at and away from home, no association was observed between fried food consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease or death."


Olive oil helps prevent stroke

Dr. Cécilia Samieri, from the University of Bordeaux and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Bordeaux, France, and colleagues reported in the journal Neurology that olive oil may prevent strokes in older people.

The team found that older people who regularly used olive oil for cooking and salad dressing or with bread had a 41% lower risk of stroke, compared with their counterparts who never consumed it.

Dr. Samieri said, "Stroke is so common in older people and olive oil would be an inexpensive and easy way to help prevent it."


Depression risk lower with olive oil, higher with trans fats

People whose diets are high in trans fats - fast foods and mass-produced foods like pastries - may have a higher risk of depression, compared with those whose diets are rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
According to a study carried out at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain and published in PLoS ONE, olive oil appears to have a slight protective effect regarding depression risk.
Dr. Almudena Sánchez-Villegas and colleagues added that their findings stood even after taking into account people's overall diet, physical activity and lifestyle.

The research team gathered and analyzed data on 12,000 volunteers over a period of 6 years. Their average age at the start of the study was 37.5 years. They had all regularly completed a 136-item questionnaire which had information on their dietary habits, lifestyle, and physical and mental health.

The investigators counted the number of people with depression at the start of the study and then again during each follow-up. Cases of depression had to be those clinically diagnosed by a doctor.

The study authors found that when they compared the volunteers who consumed trans fats regularly with individuals whose dietary fat consisted primarily of olive oil, the trans fat consumers had a 48% higher risk of developing depression.

The amount of trans fat consumed was directly related to depression risk - the more they ate, the higher the risk.

Olive oil may reduce breast cancer risk

A team of scientists at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain found a key mechanism by which virgin olive oil protects the body against breast cancer, in contrast to other vegetable oils.

The researchers decoded a complete cascade of signals within the cells of breast tumors that are activated by virgin olive oil. They concluded that the oil reduces the activity of p21Ras, an oncogene, prevents DNA damage, encourages tumor cell death, and triggers changes in protein signaling pathways.

The team found that while corn oil - which is rich in n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids - increased the aggressiveness of tumors, virgin olive oil had the opposite effect.

They demonstrated that virgin olive oil is linked to a higher incidence of benign (non-cancerous) breast tumors.


Olive oil helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels

A Japanese study published in the Medical Science Monitor3 showed that LDL-cholesterol mean concentrations were lowered in 28 outpatients who were given olive oil supplements once a day for six weeks.

LDL (low density lipoprotein) is often referred to as "bad cholesterol". The "good cholesterol" is called HDL (high density lipoprotein).

The study authors concluded "These results point to an overwhelmingly beneficial influence of olive oil on the lipoprotein spectrum."


How extra virgin olive oil protects against alzheimer's disease

Oleocanthal is a type of natural phenolic compound found in extra-virgin olive oil. In laboratory experiments with mice, researchers discovered that oleocanthal helps shuttle the abnormal Alzheimer's disease proteins out of the brain.

As background information, the researchers explained that Alzheimer's disease rates are lower in Mediterranean countries, where consumption of olive oil is higher than anywhere else in the world.

Amal Kaddoumi and team set out to determine whether oleocanthal might help reduce the accumulation of beta-amyloid, believed to be the culprit of Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Their study was published in the journal Chemical Neuroscience.
The team tracked the effects of oleocanthal in the cultured brain cells and brains of laboratory mice.

They found that in both cultured brain cells and the mice's brains themselves oleocanthal consistently boosted the production of two proteins and key enzymes known to be vital in the removal of beta-amyloid from the brain.

The study authors concluded "Extra-virgin olive oil-derived oleocanthal associated with the consumption of Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of AD or related neurodegenerative dementias."


Extra virgin olive oil helps prevent acute pancreatitis

Extra virgin olive oil is rich in oleic acid and hydroxytyrosol, which affect the development of acute pancreatitis (sudden inflammation of the pancreas).

Researchers at the University of Granada in Spain carried out an in vitro experiment which found that the components of extra virgin olive oil can protect from acute pancreatitis.

Head researcher, María Belén López Millán said that "there is increasing evidence that there are oxidative-inflammatory processes involved in the origin of chronic diseases and that diet plays an important role in such processes."


Extra virgin olive oil protects the liver

Investigators at the University of Monastir, Tunisia, and King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, carried out a study demonstrating that extra virgin olive oil may protect the liver from oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress refers to cell damage associated with the chemical reaction between free radicals and other molecules in the body. Put simply, oxidative stress means cell damage.

In this study, which was published in BioMed Central, Mohamed Hammami and colleagues reported that laboratory rats exposed to a moderately toxic herbicide that were fed on a diet containing olive oil were partially protected from liver damage.

Hammami said "Olive oil is an integral ingredient in the Mediterranean diet. There is growing evidence that it may have great health benefits including the reduction in coronary heart disease risk, the prevention of some cancers and the modification of immune and inflammatory responses. 

Here, we've shown that extra virgin olive oil and its extracts protect against oxidative damage of hepatic tissue".


Olive oil protects from ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis, a fairly common long-term (chronic) disorder, is a disease that causes inflammation of the large intestine (colon). It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that is similar to Crohn's disease, a related disorder.

Scientists at the University of East Anglia in England say that consuming more olive oil could help fend off ulcerative colitis.

Dr Andrew Hart and team gathered and analyzed data on more than 25,000 people living in Norfolk, England. They were aged between 40 and 65 years. The volunteers were part of the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Diet and Cancer), spanning from 1993 to 1997. None of them had ulcerative colitis at the start of the study.

The participants regularly completed questionnaires and kept detailed food diaries, which included information on their overall health and consumption of fats.

In a 2004 follow up, the researchers compared the diets of those who had developed ulcerative colitis with those who had not.

They discovered that the participants with the highest intake of oleic acid - a component of olive oil - had a 90% lower risk of developing ulcerative colitis compared to those with the lowest intake.

Dr. Hart said "Oleic acid seems to help prevent the development of ulcerative colitis by blocking chemicals in the bowel that aggravate the inflammation found in this illness. We estimate that around half of the cases of ulcerative colitis could be prevented if larger amounts of oleic acid were consumed.

Two-to-three tablespoons of olive oil per day would have a protective effect."


What is the nutritional value of 100g (3.5oz) of olive oil?

  • Energy - 3,701 kJ (885 kcal)
  • Carbohydrates - 0 g
  • Fat - 100 g.
    - saturated 14 g
    - monounsaturated 73 g
    - polyunsaturated 11 g
    - omega-3 fat <1.5 g
    - omega-6 fat 3.5-21 g
  • Protein - 0 g
  • Vitamin E - 14 mg (93% of recommended daily intake for adults)
  • Vitamin K - 62 μg (59% of recommended daily intake for adults)

© 2004-2013 All rights reserved. MNT (logo) is the registered trade mark of MediLexicon International Limited.


Canaan Fair Trade, a social entrepreneurship firm dedicated to artisan quality products that seeks to sustain the livelihood of Palestinian producer communities, is pleased to announce the Canaan Organic Research and Extension Center (COREC) was incorporated in the state of Palestine on May 2, 2013.

The center is a not-for-profit that will serve as a national central point for conducting research, education and extension activities to promote organic production and marketing in Palestine. The center seeks to revive the authentic traditions of organic farming in Palestine while enriching them with modern organic farming knowledge. The traditional farming methods can also be utilized by the modern sustainability movement, creating a space for the small traditional farming family in the modern world.

The main researchers are the farmers themselves, aided by professional researchers and guided by established scholars and experts in the fields. The Center will also serve as a research field for international scholars who may wish to pursue study agendas in Palestine.

“We will collaborate with universities and other research centers around the world, pulling together
resources in organic farming into Palestine,” says Dr. Nasser Abufarha, Center founder. “We will share the wealth of our traditional farming knowledge with the organic movement around the world to help link the center with ideas, support, and partnerships.”

Canaan Fair Trade, a Palestinian company with a social mission, was founded in 2004 to empower
thousands of small farmers caught in conflict to sustain their livelihood, build hope for a better future, and promote economic and cultural interaction towards a peaceful tomorrow. Canaan produces and distributes the organic, Fair trade and Extra Virgin olive oil and traditional foods cultivated by 1700 small farmer members and 200 women producers joined in the 49 cooperatives of the Palestine Fair Trade Association.
The Center will be another vehicle to realize Canaan's mission of empowering Palestinian farming communities to sustain their livelihood and afford them a space in modern society.



Palestine Hopes to Make Its Mark as the Home of World-Class, Organic Olive Oil 

To qualify as extra-virgin olive oil, which brings the highest price, farmers must harvest their olives by hand.
The annual harvest festival falls in early November outside the northern West Bank city of Jenin, Palestine. Hundreds of farmers and their families come out to celebrate the end of another season of organic, fair trade, extra virgin olive oil production. It’s their livelihood, and it has improved markedly since the Palestine Fair Trade Association organized the farmers into cooperatives to help increase their incomes.

In Palestine’s occupied West Bank, 80% of the cultivated land is planted with olive trees. The association has organized 1,700 marginalized farmers into 43 cooperatives in the West Bank. These farmers used to sell their olives for less than it cost them to harvest them. Now they process them through a state-of-the-art olive press imported from Italy.

It’s all part of the association’s plan to brand Palestine as the home of world-class olive oil, explains olive press manager Ahmed Abu Farha as he gives a group of Palestinians and foreigners a tour.

“Our olive press cold presses the olives without heat, without using hot water in order to maintain the high quality of the product, and it also uses nitrogen; the idea is to prevent oxygen in the air from oxidizing the product,” he says. “To qualify as extra-virgin olive oil, which brings the highest price, farmers must harvest their olives by hand, not with rakes, and transport them immediately to the press in special containers that prevent bruising.”

The farmers sell most of their oil to the association, which brands it as Canaan Fair Trade, but keep some for their own use. Last year the co-op exported 450 metric tons of extra virgin olive oil to Europe, North America, Australia, Japan and Korea.

The lower quality oil that doesn’t make the grade is sold to make Dr. Bronner ‘s Magic Soaps, an organic, fair trade staple at natural food stores.
Hasan Kamel Samar, one of the co-op member farmers, harvests 400 olive trees in a village near Jenin. Through a translator he says that he makes more money now selling olives to the Fair Trade association. He planted all his trees, now between 15 and 18 years old. 

“The people here [in the association] are very nice and they treat the farmers very well,” he says. “And they give scholarships to the children of the farmers.”

All the guests walked around the grounds or sat under olive trees decorated with bold cloth sashes, eating plump pita bread soaked in olive oil, encrusted with spices and topped with hummus—another signature Palestinian food.  They listened to a band whose singer belted traditional songs in Arabic, and cheered as the names of the scholarship winners were announced.
Hasan Kamel Samar, an olive farmer in one of the cooperatives run by the Palestine Fair Trade Association.
The Palestine Fair Trade Association is the brainchild of Nasser Abu Farha (Ahmed’s uncle), who was educated at the University of Wisconsin. In 2005 he started discussing the idea of cooperatives with farmers around the West Bank.

“We’ve built a transparent structure where all the cooperatives can participate in decision-making and electing boards,” he says. “We’ve built an organization that transfers power to the communities that have been marginalized, and we cultivate international solidarity and bring it to the hands of these farmers, so we enable them to support themselves and their families.

We provide open market access and guide them through our research from what we know about organic farming. The main thing that came out of this is that we created hope among the farmers that there are people who care.”

The olive oil the association sells is stocked on the shelves of high-end stores like Whole Foods in the U.S. and Sainsbury’s in Britain—16 countries in all with sales of $5 million in 2010.

The size of the olives is determined in part by the moisture content in the soil. Since Palestinians receive about a fifth as much water as Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and are not allowed any water for irrigation, Abu Farha says that limits the size of the olives in many places, and many trees die for lack of water.

The association gives out 10,000 young trees a year to new farmers or to replace trees lost to cutting, uprooting or burning by the settlers or the Israeli Defense Forces. It is not uncommon, while driving through the West Bank, to see long stretches of olive tree stumps, where once healthy trees were cut down

In addition to olive oil, Canaan Fair Trade produces tahini, couscous, honey, fig spread, candied almonds and cactus sauce. Abu Farha says he wants to keep expanding the variety and quantity of organic, fair trade goods that are produced from the Biblical “land of milk and honey” in order to spread the sustainable income it generates to more Palestinian farmers.

MELINDA TUHUS is a Connecticut-based independent journalist. She writes the Activated blog for E
- See more at: http://www.emagazine.com/magazine/forging-new-connections-for-palestinian-farmers/#sthash.f98yu3lM.dpuf

Monday, 11 November 2013



How is extra virgin olive oil being made. It is necessary to underline that we purposely deal with virgin and extra virgin olive oil, for only these two types, according to law, can be obtained through a mechanical “pressing” of olives.

All other types, including the one simply called “olive oil”, undergo chemical treatment, normally called “refining” treatments.


Everything starts with the olives                     

The types of olives, Cutlivar called, affects the result of extra virgin olive oil obtained
Of course, it all starts with olives, people could say!

Yes, its’ true, however in times of frauds, food sophistication of all sorts, it is good to remind ourselves that extra virgin olive oil can be obtain only and exclusively from olives!

There are so many different types of olives. Every type can produce a different kind of oil with a specific character and “personality”. In technical slang language it is called “fruttato” (flavor) and there are many kinds, but here in “Oliving” we prefer using the word emotions: every olive gives a different emotions!

This historic fruit, throughout the centuries, has entered into the most different Italian regions and has adapted itself to all types of climate and conditions. The ripening process of olives reflects the great variety of existing types.

Some olives are ripe by the end of August, others in September, and still others in October, November and December. There is no precise rule to determine when the olives are ripe to the right point. When the process nears the external peel of the olive gets quickly darker> It is a process called darkening. It is not a rule, however the best quality of oil is obtained when the olives are picked at the beginning of the darkening process.
Unfortunately it corresponds to the moment when the yield is the lowest, if compared to when the olives are very dark (almost black).
We already stated that the quality of oil does not correspond to the quantity!                          



Harvest and storage 


There are different ways of picking the olives: by hand, with instruments facilitating the collection ( a sort of automatic rake), shakers (machines which shake the tree causing the olives to fall on the net).

Except from the picking by hand which remains undoubtedly the best method ever, yet, unfortunately, the most costly, it is quite difficult to define which are the actual disadvantages of other methods. To try understanding the critical points related to the collection of olives we propose a test which you can easily make at home.
Take a ripe apple, press the peel with one of your fingers. Sometime later you will notice that where you pressed the apple with your finger the color will darken. It is due to the fact that by pressing the skin of the apple you have accelerated the chemical processes of decay of the apple. Exactly the same happens with olives.
The more the collecting method mishandles the olives, the more they will reach the olive mill in poor conditions. This, coupled with the time of storage may have a bad influence on the quality of oil.

However, it cannot be said that only by hand picking the olives good quality oil can be produces! If the collection is carried out by using the brain on top of the use of hands … it is possible to obtain some very good quality of oil also with other methods which rely on some mechanical devises.                                 


After the harvest and before being crashed, olives must be stores in some appropriate containers.

The storage is definitely one of the most critical passages of the entire process. Even when olives are of the best quality and have been properly picked, a bad storage could totally compromise the quality of the oil by introducing a series of defects which can be easily perceived even by people who are not expert in the field.
The reason which lies at the bases of this critical moment is quite simple: olives start to decay (oxidation, fermentation, etc.) from the first moment following the harvesting. This decay process increases with the passing of hours, with the change of temperature, and the pressure suffered by olives stored in large quantity. The following are some of the rules which producers of high quality oil normally follow:

1. Avoid storing olives for a period longer than 24 hours ( high quality oil producers normally press the olives within 12 and 24 hours from harvesting time)

 2. Avoid using containers which are too tall so as to eliminate the pressure exercised by olives on top on olives at the bottom.

 3. Keep containers on a ventilate, cool area and very protected from the light.


Defoliation and olives washing

Before being crushed, the olives are washed to remove any residue of soil At the oil mill, olives are first of all cleared from all leaves. Actually, not all leaves are left behind while picking olives. This is by no means a problem, since leaves in small quantity contribute to the color of oil and also to its aroma.

 Nevertheless, some producers particularly “obsessed” with quality reach the point of selecting every single olive which enters the mill eliminating whichever residue which may even slightly compromise the high quality of oil.
It becomes clear that an extra virgin olive oil of this type will unavoidably be very expensive ( however, most likely, very good also!)




There are many kinds of crushers, with hammers, with blades, with discs, but certainly the best known is the mills grinder After having been washed, olives are ready to be literally crushed.
In people’s imagination this is the moment when oil is actually produced. Yet it is not so. In this phase olives are only crushed (pulp and seed) so as to facilitate the extraction of oil which will take place in following phases.
In the picture you see what is perhaps the most ancient method of crushing: the grindstone.
Nowadays such methods still exist, however it has been substituted by and large by other mechanical systems such as hammer crushers, or blade crushers, etc. But it is nice to stay with the ancient and more poetic method of the grindstones. The goal remains always the same; crushing the olives.




The mixing is the process where the olive paste obtained by crushing the olives is mixed for about an hour What is left with olives after the crushing is a kind of dough which has precisely to be “blended” (kneading) in such a way that separation of molecules of water from those of oil may be favored ( they were mixed in the previous phase). This is a fairly long part of the whole process; it ranges from forty minutes to an hour.
The dough must be kept at a stable temperature of approximately 27 Celsius degrees. It is this phase which gave the name “cold pressed” to the oil. The expert eye of the mill operator will determine when the dough is ready and that is when on top of the dough he starts seeing tiny drops of oil which can become visible.

 A curiosity: there are producers who collect ( with difficulty) the oil which appears on the surface of the dough. This type of oil is therefore called “protruded” . Few produce it and it is obviously most expensive, nevertheless it is definitely worth the expense!

One last thing: if anybody happens to stop at an oil mill while the dough is being processed, most likely they will be quite reluctant to show it to you … Not for lack of kindness, but simply because in all the different moments of the processing of oil, contact with air should be strictly avoided.




Once the dough is ready it enters inside a “decanter” that has a centrifugal force which separates the solid elements (sansa) from the liquid ones (water and oil). The sansa is often used to obtain another kind of oil through a refining process ( sansa oil) or made into fuel.

The oil is separated from the water and the olive solid parts For curiosity sake it must be also said that the centrifugal system is not the only one to get the oil out of the dough.

 The ancient way was that of inserting the dough inside containers shaped as discs, made with vegetable or synthetic fibers. Then, with great pressure the oil was squeezed out of the containers. It has become very rare to still find such system.

In order to bring the process of extraction to completion it is necessary to totally separate water from oil. To do it, another type of vertical-axis centrifugal force is being used.  Thus oil is being finally obtained!

It won’t be limpid and clear as we are accustomed to taste it.
Indeed there will still be some minute particles of solid matter which have not totally eliminated in the previous phases. It is enough to allow the new oil to rest for some days so as to allow these particles to be deposited at the bottom of the container.

For purely esthetical reasons, however, oil is normally being filtered in many ways so as to make it clear as we are accustomed seeing it.





Concluding, oil is being stored in stainless steel containers which is perhaps the most suitable material to guarantee its conservation.
These containers will be of different sizes according to the need.

Those producers who choose a quality wise objective normally substitute the amount of air remaining between the cover and the oil with some inert gases such as nitrogen.

This way the oxidation process is avoided. In a second moment oil will be bottled in a more or less automatic way, according to the volume of production.