Τhe number one concern I get when I present or suggest using plenty of olive oil in the recipes I post here, is worrying about the calories and fat. Too much fat and you will gain weight, right? Well, no not exactly. As I have explained, when you have one of the many vegetable based Greek dishes which are made with vegetables and olive oil, the percentage of fat will be somewhat high because the calories from the vegetables is so low, but overall the calories balance out. As Dr. Antonia Trichopoulou, M.D., Ph.D., top Mediterranean diet researcher and one of the developers of the Original Mediterranean Pyramid, has said “Certainly olive oil has many calories, but a diet can be followed that can include oil while staying within normal limits calorie wise”.
Now olive oil known to be a healthy fat is also one of the reasons many people falsely believe the Mediterranean diet cannot help you lose weight. However, if followed correctly a Mediterranean diet not only can provide several health benefits but it can help you lose weight. Several studies have associated the Mediterranean diet with lower body fat and normal weight in children and adults.
In this new study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers from the Federal University of Viçosa in Brazil, had a group of middle aged, overweight women receive a high fat breakfast that included 25 ml of oil. One group was given olive oil while the other group was given soybean oil. The oils were added to shakes that were consumed every morning. The participants were following a calorie restricted diet prescribed by a dietitian. After 9 weeks on this diet, both groups had lost weight, although the olive oil group had lost more weight but also more body fat. In fact, the olive oil group had 80% more body fat loss than the soybean oil group. The researchers noted that the results indicate that extra virgin olive oil should be included into calorie restricted programs for obesity treatment.
Olive Oil and Body Fat
While this is a smaller study, it appears that there are certain components in olive oil that may affect body composition positively. A previous study had shown that the Mediterranean diet as a whole also was associated with less body fat. It is hypothesized that oleic acid, a fatty acid in olive oil, regulates an enzyme which favors weight loss.
The amount of olive oil used in the study was 25 ml, a little less than 2 tablespoons, the minimum amount of olive oil required to see all those benefits from previous studies on olive oil.
While the study included olive oil in a shake which I wouldn’t recommend, olive oil should be used both in cooking (especially for vegetables) and uncooked in salads, drizzled on cheese and bread as well as for baking.
The most important thing to remember when using olive oil is to make sure it is fresh, look for “best by” date or date of harvest. In addition, make sure you are not making any of these mistakes when using olive oil.