Live longer, live better! Olives are an essential part of the Mediterranean diet and contain monounsaturated fat – the good fat!
Adherence to the Mediterranean diet, of which olives and olive oil are a key component, not only supports good health but has been associated with promoting longevity. Data from the Nurses’ Health Study suggests that women who adhere to the Mediterranean diet had longer telomeres in their blood cells.*1 Telomeres are DNA sequences that get shorter when cells divide, so their length is thought to be a measure of a cell’s aging.
Of the 1.5 grams of fat in a 15 gram serving of olives, more than 75 percent is monounsaturated, which is not associated with the damaging effects of saturated fats, but is associated with increased longevity, decreased risk of heart disease, reduced risk of chronic disease, lower blood pressure, and improved brain function. **2, ***3,****4
*1 The project design precluded researchers from establishing a temporal association between dietary habits and telomere length; the single-measure test used prevented the estimation of associations between the Mediterranean diet and telomere attrition rate; and the participants predominately included women of European ancestry, and telomere dynamics may differ among other ethnicities.
**2 The generalizability of the findings is limited because all the study participants lived in a Mediterranean country and were at high cardiovascular risk; whether the results can be generalized to persons at lower risk or to other settings requires further research.
***3 This perspective view explores variations in diet and lifestyle that may or may not contribute to mortality rates, monounsaturated fats are a key component contributing to the health effects of the Mediterranean diet but other factors must be considered.
****4 The meta-analysis supports a Mediterranean-like dietary pattern being significantly associated with a reduced risk of overall mortality and major chronic disease. Generalizability of the findings is again limited due to the Mediterranean diet not being homogenous, with variations in specific food categories and alcohol intake.
1 Estruch, R., Ros, E., Salas-Salvadó, J., Covas, M. I., Corella, D., Arós, F., ... & Martínez-González, M. A. (2013). Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 368(14), 1279-1290.
2 Crous-Bou, M., Fung, T. T., Prescott, J., Julin, B., Du, M., Sun, Q., ... & De Vivo, I. (2014). Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses’ Health Study: population based cohort study. BMJ, 349, g6674.
3 Hu, F. B. (2003). The Mediterranean diet and mortality-olive oil and beyond. New England Journal of Medicine, 348(26), 2595-2596.
4 Sofi, F., Cesari, F., Abbate, R., Gensini, G. F., & Casini, A. (2008). Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: meta-analysis. Bmj, 337.