Is Olive oil healthy?
Olive oil has been touted as something healthy for many years now as a result of the Mediterranean Diet.
The reason they hypothesize this is due to the fatty acid Oleate or Oleic acid.
Like many other things being touted by the mainstream as being healthy I think this has been a mistake.
First we know that the current incarnation of the Mediterranean diet is not how the greeks traditionally ate. The diet was made up. It was based on post war Greece where their food supply was decimated and also when the majority of the food questionaires were gathered it was during lent so they were giving up meat for lent.
What anthropology and history tells us is that the ancient greeks actually ate a lot of meat from lamb, goats, wild pig and seafood. They did have some olive oil but it was not a main component of the meal.
The current idea of the mediterranean diet is actually just the american food pyramid of the 1950s with some olive oil added in. This was an invention of a think tank and not based on the real historical diet of the mediterranean.
Now we seem to drench everything in olive oil because of a misconception.
Humans have an enzyme, the SCD1 enzyme, that converts saturated fat to oleic acid. Clearly it is important to health.
To figure out how much scientists took mice, who have the same gene, and genetically modified the mice to knockout this gene so they could not make any oleate.
They fed them a high fat diet of a mixed ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat. The wild mice on the diet got fat. The knockout mice did not. They had less fat overall, dramatically less dangerous visceral fat and more lean mass. Despite the knockout mice eating 25% more calories than the wild mice.
This was interesting.
They then took mice that were genetically modified to become obese quickly. They also knocked out the SCD1 enzyme. The obese mice became lean.
Very interesting indeed.
They then took the SCD1 knockout mice and fed them a diet of zero oleic acid and only saturated fat. Again the mice were eating ~25% more calories but were staying lean and appeared healthy. When they dug deeper they saw signs of liver damage, inflammation and the start of atherosclerosis. This was troublesome. They then supplemented the smallest amount of oleic acid to the diet and the mice were restored to good health.
Very very interesting.
They then took all the mice and fed them a diet of increasing levels of oleic acid and the further they pushed them toward a oleic heavy diet the fatter the mice got and they started getting fatty liver and diabetes.
Clearly some oleic acid is needed. This is why we have the enzyme. Then there is also the fact that animal fats are already nearly 50% oleic acid. We should not be adding it in.
If we look at the diet of the french we can see an interesting case here. The French were famously left out of the famous 7 country study that “proved” saturated fat was bad and the cause of heart disease because they didn’t meet the criteria. They ate lots of saturated fat and had very low rates of heart disease.
When we analyze their saturated fat to unsaturated they had a nearly 50/50 ratio. Despite their high carb/high fat and high booze diet, they were lean and realtively free of heart disease. We can see this clearly from the FAO food data from 1970 which I have attached below.
You can see as well that they french rate of obesity has increased. It is slower and less pronounced than the west but it still increases. It also directly correlates with an increase in intentional unsaturated fat increase.
I think this is a pretty strong case that olive oil is not healthy. Stick to animal fats. You can see this in the below image of their food breakdowns. The only real change is the increase in unsaturated fat.
I think this is a pretty strong case that olive oil is not healthy. Stick to animal fats.