Research shows that the rate of fractures due to osteoporosis is lower in countries in the Mediterranean, compared to northern Europe or North America.
Why? Well, most Mediterranean people tend to get more exercise year-round than most of their northern counterparts, and that helps keep their bones healthy. And the Mediterranean diet is rich in foods containing vitamin C, which, as I reported last year, is a key component of strong bones.
But many Mediterranean people aren’t milk drinkers, so they don’t get much calcium through their diet. And, as we all know, calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health.
So what’s behind this new Mediterranean paradox? According to a new study, it may very well be olive oil.
In fact, this research shows that when consumed regularly, extra virgin olive oil can lower the risk of bone fractures by a whopping 51%.1
Nine years of data shows the benefits of olive oil
Over the years, I’ve reported on several studies that show how consuming olive oil reduces blood pressure and lowers risk of heart attacks and strokes. Olive oil is also beneficial for brain health — due mainly to bioactive constituents like phenols and the carotenoids that give the oil its golden color (see page 3 for more on the benefits of carotenoids).
But do these compounds also help improve bone health? Researchers behind the PREDIMED study decided to find out.
I’ve written before about this Spanish study, which stands for “Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea.” Although PREDIMED primarily evaluates cardiovascular risk factors, this time the researchers focused on osteoporotic fractures.
They looked at data on 870 people, ages 55 to 80, who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease, but had not actually experienced a cardiovascular event such as heart attack or stroke. This included people who smoked, were obese, had low HDL (so-called “good”) cholesterol and high LDL (so-called “bad”) cholesterol, or had high blood pressure.
The participants were divided into groups that ate either a Mediterranean diet with high levels of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), a Mediterranean diet with high levels of nuts, or a low-fat diet.
Over an average of nine years, the study participants had a total of 114 bone fractures. But the participants in the highest third for olive oil consumption had a 51% lower risk of fractures, compared to those in the lowest third of olive oil consumption.
How to get the most health benefits from your olive oil
The study found these bone benefits were specifically associated with EVOO, which has higher plant phenolic content.
But as I reported in my Nov. 24, 2016 Daily Dispatch (“The scandal sweeping through supermarket aisles all across the country”), not all brands of EVOO are created equal. In fact, recent investigations show that many companies making extra virgin olive oil dilute their products with cheaper, lower-grade oils like canola, safflower, or sunflower oils.
Researchers at University of California tested 186 different olive oil samples.
Popular brands that failed to meet the extra virgin testing were: Bertolli, Carapelli, Mezzetta, Mazola, and Pompeian.
Brands that passed the University of California test were: Bariani, California Olive Ranch, Cobram Estate, Corto, Kirkland Organic, Lucero (Ascolano), Lucini, and McEvoy Ranch Organic.
You can look for the seal denoting approval by the California Olive Oil Council, labeled as “COOC Certified Extra Virgin.” Seals of approval from the Italian Olive Growers’ Association, the Extra Virgin Alliance (EVA), and UNAPROL also signal a good, pure product.
I recommend keeping enough olive oil to last you about three months (whatever size that may be for you). That way, your oil will always be fresh. Be sure to store your olive oil at room temperature, away from heat and light (in a cabinet or pantry).
You can also get health benefits by eating whole, organic olives. But skip the pre-packaged varieties that taste more like the cans and containers they come in, and opt for fresh olives instead. Many grocery stores now have open olive bars that offer a wide selection of these tasty delicacies. They can be expensive, but considering the health benefits olives confer, they’re well worth the indulgence.
My checklist for healthy bones
Avoid dangerous, ineffective osteoporosis drugs and keep your bones healthy with these easy, natural steps.
- 250 mg of vitamin C, twice a day
- 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily
- Calcium intake through a diet rich in dairy foods and leafy greens, NOT calcium supplements, or supplements with calcium
- Regular consumption of olive oil
- Moderate, daily physical activity like walking, swimming, or doing housework or yardwork
1“Extra virgin olive oil consumption reduces the risk of osteoporotic fractures in the PREDIMED trial.” Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan 13. pii: S0261-5614(17)30006-7.