What if we told you that lengthening your lifespan could be as easy as keeping one common ingredient stocked in your pantry at all times? Better yet, what if that ingredient is already in your pantry? This isn’t a hypothetical question — there really is one ingredient that has been scientifically proven to help you live a longer life and it’s something that you can use in your cooking every day: extra virgin olive oil.
A staple in the Mediterranean diet, which a comprehensive study deemed the best diet for living longer, extra virgin olive oil is also a staple on most of our kitchen counters. (By the way, that’s not the best place for this life-lengthening cooking oil. You really should be storing EVOO away from heat and in the dark if you want to preserve its delicate antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties, according to a study published in the International Journal of Microbiology Research.)
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There are several studies that have linked extra virgin olive oil to promoting longevity and decreasing the risk of age-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Extra virgin olive oil contains several bioactive compounds that may play a role in longevity. A Molecular Nutrition & Food Research review noted that EVOO’s antioxidants, as well as its high concentration of monounsaturated fats appear to be essential for the beneficial effect of this food; however, it remains to be proven whether it’s the EVOO that can extend your lifespan or the fact that EVOO is a key ingredient in the life-lengthening Mediterranean diet. Regardless of which is the case, the takeaway is the same: cooking with olive oil alone isn’t enough to extend your lifespan. Studies show that the effects of consuming olive oil will be most pronounced when fasting, limiting caloric intake, and exercising.
There are studies that have specifically examined extra virgin olive oil’s role in longevity.
A review published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology found that EVOO’s phenolic antioxidants play an important role in preventing the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease — a common age-related disease. A separate Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease review found that these antioxidants have beneficial effects on learning and memory deficits, and could help reverse age-related cognitive decline.
Some of the oil’s positive role in longevity may also be linked to its high concentration of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Stanford University researchers found a surprising link between a gene modification and longevity in an animal study. When the researchers looked into it further, they found that that this specific DNA modification in roundworms resulted in an increased concentration of the same monounsaturated fats found in olive oil in their guts. This was an animal study, and does not necessarily mean the same results would be found in humans.
To get the most life-extending bang for your buck, make sure you’re buying extra virgin olive oil, as studies show that this unrefined version of the oil contains the highest levels of antioxidants compared to the refined “olive oil.” It’s also important that you store EVOO away from heat and light, as both of these environmental favors can accelerate the oxidative processes that negatively affect nutrition and taste.