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” Liquid Gold of the Mediterranean ” have begun to be produced by the Phoenicians around 4000 years before Jesus Christ. These travelers, conquerors and traders, diffused the cultivation of olive trees on the sunnier edges of the Mare Nostrum. The baton was then passed to the Greek and Roman civilizations which have extended this culture more intensely inland. Today, the Mediterranean area constitutes 97% of world production and continues to convey a lifestyle associated with this precious commodity, which has not finished to reveal its secrets.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, the Liquid Gold of the Mediterranean

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, the Liquid Gold of the Mediterranean

1) Use of olive oil in history

In ancient times, olive oil was considered a sacred essential substance. It was supposed to convey to man the force and strength of the olive tree, the tree that is almost eternal linked with the privileges of the gods.

 A food

This is the third pillar of the Mediterranean diet consisting mainly of cereals, wine and olive oil. Olive oil was in ancient times an essential fat intake in a society where the consumption of meat and dairy products was low.

It was just consumed with bread, as a condiment on vegetables or as a curing agent.

A cosmetic product

In ancient times it was said that there were “two very pleasant liquors to human body, for internal use was wine for external use was olive oil.” It was used in soaps, shampoos, perfumes, but also as a makeup remover. The women in history used it to hydrate their bodies or their hands, to protect their hair, make it silky and easy to disentangle. It was used by Greek athletes as a rub to loosen muscles before exercise and to protect from bumps, bites, the sun, the wind and the cold, and to reduce excessive sweating.

A drug

Taken as a potion to calm stomach pain, ointment to soothe burns, irritation and itching, as warm drops with a little garlic to relieve ear pain. The leaves of the olive tree serve as astringent and purifying base. Preparations consist of olive leaves.  Olive oil cures all kinds of inflammation, reduces fever and helps in the proper function of the gallbladder.

As a domestic product

Olive oil was the fuel of oil lamps that lit houses. It was also used for heating. It was also a lubricant for hinges, it was used as shine, protection and nourishing leather goods, as wood polish and as metal polish of metal objects (such as armor, helmets and swords).

A product of religious use

The olive tree was a symbol of fertility, wisdom and peace. At the Olympic Games in history, the winners were presented with a simple olive branch that was cut with a gold handled knife. The Greeks believed that the vitality of the sacred tree was transmitted to the recipient through the branch. Olive oil was a symbol of warmth and light (probably because of its domestic use), it was used for anointing priests and kings.

A product of military use

Boiled, it was used as a weapon to fend off attackers when strongholds were attacked.

2) Fundamental element of the Mediterranean Diet

The eating habits of people living around the Mediterranean Sea have remained essentially the same since ancient times and a common point has always been the use of olive oil, cereals, fruits and vegetables, fish, red wine, little meat and a specific lifestyle. Numerous scientific studies have highlighted and explained the beneficial health effects of this way of eating and recommended the generalization of the ”  Mediterranean diet  . ”

The “Cretan” regime …

Until the mid-twentieth century, mortality and health of a population were directly attributed to sufficient food rich in animal protein quantity.

In the 1950s, the American nutritionist Ancel Keys intrigued by the high mortality rate of well-nourished American executives, whereas the mortality rate was much lower in European populations often in a state of malnutrition and under, began to compare rates overall mortality of populations in the world. He was particularly surprised at the proportion of centenarians and low rates of heart disease in some islands of southern Italy and Greece, including Crete, while their diet was particularly frugal, lean meats, but rich vegetable fats (olive oil). He decided to launch a major study comparing the dietary habits and mortality from cardiovascular disease in seven countries: Finland, the United States, the Netherlands, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Japan and Crete. In each country, a minimum of 10,000 men aged 40-60 years were followed for several years to optimize outcomes over the long term. This study will then be called the “Seven Countries Study”.

The study was the largest in Finland and found out that the rate of deaths in Crete are two times lower than other regions. But the most striking was the analysis of the proportion of deaths due to cardiovascular disease. It reaches almost 45% in the United States against 1.4% in Crete!

This study highlighted the importance of diet on the development of fatal cardiovascular disease, significant danger posed by the excessive consumption of fat, the beneficial health impact of daily moderate consumption of unsaturated fats present in vegetable oils and the negative effect of daily consumption of saturated animal fats.

.. the “French Paradox”

In the 1980s,  the paradox between high intake of fat and red wine by the French and their relatively low rate of cardiovascular diseases was researched.

In the early 1990s, Professor Serge Renaud, one of the discoverers of the “French Paradox”, published research (The Lyon Diet Study) that showed that subjects who suffered a first heart attack and who adopted a Cretan diet had an infarct and cerebral vascular accidents reduced by 75%, while the group subjected only to a low fat diet did had a reduction of 25%. This study was published in 1994 in the medical journal The Lancet and launched the worldwide popularity of the “Mediterranean Diet”.

Heritage

The “Mediterranean diet” was recorded November 16, 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO as a “set of skills, knowledge, practices and traditions.”

3) Health: 5 virtues of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Since ancient times, men have found medicinal virtues of olive oil and the positive effect of consumption on health. Since then, numerous scientific studies have highlighted a rational reality of the effects and mechanisms explained and identified trace elements involved in these mechanisms.

Now, five major effects are no longer doubtful:

1 Prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases

2 Proper functioning of the entire digestive tract (stomach, bladder, pancreas, liver, intestine)

3 Good bone development

4 Mitigating the effects of aging

5 Protection against cancer

On Friday, March 14th, 2014
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