With research growing about the many health benefits connected with following a Mediterranean diet, Spanish researchers may have discovered a genetic reason why it works so well for Europeans. And, it's linked to their consumption of virgin olive oil.
Twenty patients, suffering from the cluster of symptoms related to heart disease, stroke and diabetes better known as metabolic syndrome, ate controlled olive oil-based breakfasts with low or high amounts of phenolic compounds.
The connection: Olive oils contain beneficial micronutrients known as phenols, and extra virgin varieties have been found to possess more of them. Previous studies have shown how extra virgin olive oils reduce a number of damaging, pro-inflammatory markers in the human body.
Ninety-eight different genes were identified in the presence of foods cooked with phenol-rich, virgin olive oil, many of them linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Even better, the phenols in extra virgin olive oil repressed some of these pro-inflammatory processes, suggesting that a targeted diet can switch the activity of immune system cells to a less harmful inflammatory profile, scientists say.
These findings add to the growing body of knowledge (pun intended) supporting the belief that what you eat can directly affect your health.
BMC Genomics, Vol. 11, No. 253, April 20, 2010 Free Full Text PDF
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