Extra virgin olive oil has recently been described as an “orchestra”. This is very appropriate in the sense that the whole is more than the individual parts. You can take components out of extra virgin olive oil and put them in the human body, but any benefit is insignificant compared with the symphony of nutrition and healing presented by extra virgin olive oil in its entirety.
Modern science is only just starting to explore how extra virgin olive oil actually works. There are three approaches, two which have been pretty much explored and a third which is like a fascinating and largely unexplored jungle!
The first scientific approach is to give groups of people diets that include varying amounts of extra virgin olive oil and over the course of time, analysing the health of these people. Invariably it has been shown that people with higher amounts of extra virgin olive oil in their diets suffer fewer heart diseases, live longer, suffer fewer cancers and are more resistant to diabetes, along with a whole host of other resistances to chronic illnesses. Clearly the human body responds excellently to this orchestra!
The second approach is to investigate molecular interactions of individual components of extra virgin olive oil. An example of this is squalene, which is a valuable component of extra virgin olive oil. It has been suggested that squalene soaks up free radicals on human skin and helps to prevent skin cancer. This is great. The violin solo was brilliant, but how much of the joy was dependent upon the rest of the orchestra? Can a squalene pill have the same effect? We think not because the squalene has to be assimilated by the body under the correct conditions and then delivered to the skin and given the correct environment in which to work.
This brings us to the third approach which is the science behind how the orchestra interacts with food and interacts with different human bodies to give its health benefits. There are different ways of investigating this and one avenue is emerging which although highly complex, shows a lot of promise in terms of our understanding of how the body works and how food works. This is the science of the gut and the billions of bacteria that live and work there. Another approach is to look at the body as a massive and unique collection of cells. Each cell has its own identity, its own functions and even its own power supply. Each cell needs food and it needs that food to be delivered to its doorstep in a form that it can recognise and utilise.
In conclusion we know that extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest foods available and we know something about how various components can be effective. But it is going to take a long time before we can say, “This is why you feel like you do when the orchestra plays!”