Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Your Skin
Extra virgin olive oil is rightfully gaining traction as, quite simply, the healthiest oil.
You've probably heard it's good for your heart, but that's not all.
An exciting and growing area of research is how olive oil is pretty fabulous for your skin.
In Australia, where skin cancer is top of mind, perhaps the most interesting research is how extra virgin olive oil can be protective and lower your risk.
Note that it must be extra virgin olive oil. That's because it is the unrefined, pure juice of the olive that contains the special plant compounds that are proving to be key skin health ingredients.
Olive oil, or the misnomer 'pure olive oil' bottles on the supermarket shelf have been refined and they lack the high levels of the goodies we need.
There are two key components present in extra virgin olive oil that have piqued scientific interest and are proving to be pretty special.
The first is squalene.
This is fat soluble and concentrates in the skin surface lipid film that acts to protect our skin from the external environment.
A high concentration of squalene seems to not just affect skin integrity, but lower the risk of a skin cancer forming too.
We make some squalene ourselves, but there are limits to how much we can produce. It is produced in our skin oil glands but decreases markedly by age 30.
Dietary sources can significantly increase our levels. Although it does appear fairly widespread in nature, extra virgin olive oil is the stand out source.
So much so that while the usual Western diet provides only 30mg a day of squalene, a Mediterranean Diet provides 200-400mg.
As well as being anti-cancerous, squalene is also a fabulous anti-aging agent for the skin by protecting against the free radical damage that ultimately leads to aged skin. I can't think of a more delicious anti-aging ritual than daily extra virgin olive oil!
The second compound is oleocanthal.
This one of the substances in extra virgin olive oil that delivers a lovely peppery kick in the back of the throat. Feel the kick and it's a pretty good sign you have oil high in oleocanthal.
Taste aside you also then know you have a potentially powerful anti-cancer agent on board. In the lab oleocanthal has been shown to inhibit the growth of human skin cancer cells, while healthy cells continue to flourish. Exactly what we want.
Oleocanthal is also an anti-inflammatory agent so it has the potential to help with inflammatory skin conditions.
Psoriasis severity has been linked to dietary intake and a Mediterranean diet has been shown to be useful in lessening the disease and in one study it is postulated that this may be acting through oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil is also used in soap across the Mediterranean region and olive oil skincare products are starting to appear in Australia.
Perhaps there is a double whammy effect of delivering extra virgin olive oil internally and externally!
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