The Italian Almanac

olive oil

Italian News - September 1

New research has pinned down why extra-virgin olive oil, a staple of Italian cuisine, helps the nation's inhabitants avoid tumours and other diseases in their later years. The results of a nine-year study of Italians living in the olive-rich southern region of Puglia showed recently that they were statistically less prone to cancer and other ailments because they consumed the oil all their lives.

Now researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia have discovered precisely why this is the case. They have identified in extra-virgin olive oil a molecule which is similar to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory agent contained in several over-the-counter painkillers.

They believe that the molecule, which they have called 'oleocantale', is the key element which gives olive oil its legendary properties. If assimilated over a long period of time, it can mean a person is protected from tumours and other problems that regularly crop up when a person becomes old, they say.

The research, which finally offers scientific support for what doctors and nutritionists have said for years, appears in the September edition of the journal Nature. The discovery comes just five months after scientists at Bari University's Geriatrics Department offered convincing statistical evidence that olive oil is a real 'elixir of life'.