The Old Parliament auditorium in Athens, full of people, with presenters at a table and podium in front

On May 11, the second annual Olympia Health & Nutrition Awards ceremony took place in Athens, Greece. With 800 samples of olive oil from Greece, Spain, Italy, USA, Croatia, and Cyprus evaluated solely on the basis of their health benefits, 50 Gold Awards were presented to producers of extra healthy olive oil with over 1000 mg/kg of phenolic compounds.

Many more olive oil producers took home Silver and Bronze awards for making olive oil that meets or exceeds the requirements for the only official EU health claim for olive oil. By extension, the EU health claim implies that the olive oil polyphenols it mentions may help protect against diseases related to oxidative stress, such as cancer, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, myocardial infarction, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, chronic inflammation, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.

In 2012, New Food Magazine reports, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved Regulation 432/2012, which states, “olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress.” The EFSA limited this claim to certain polyphenols, including oleacein and oleocanthal, and to olive oils that contain “at least 5mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives (e.g. oleuropein complex and tyrosol) per 20mg of olive oil.” These are the polyphenols and minimum amounts considered for the Olympia Awards, but many of the awarded olive oils include far more healthy polyphenols than the EFSA claim requires.

The first edition of the Olympia Health & Nutrition Awards took place last year in Ancient Olympia. This year, the awards were presented at the old parliament building in Athens during an informative event organized by the University of Athens in the context of the Interreg Med ARISTOIL project, which will develop innovative ways to measure, produce, and certify high phenolic olive oils eligible for the EU health claim, as well as educating producers and consumers about it, seeking to improve the competitiveness of the Mediterranean olive oil sector.

Before the awards were presented, professors and researchers discussed agricultural innovation, research on olive oil’s health benefits, and the founding of the World Olive Center for Health, which is being inaugurated as part of the ARISTOIL project to certify olive oils with the EU health claim, to organize the Olympia Awards (along with the University of Athens), and to carry on or support research about olive oil’s health benefits.

As Dr. Prokopios Magiatis, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Athens, explained to Greek Liquid Gold, “every producer that submitted [olive oil] samples for analysis between October 2016 and April 2017 in our lab and had at least one sample eligible for the health claim was awarded. If the best sample of a producer was >1000 mg/kg, then the award was gold. If it was between 500 and 1000 it was silver, and if it was between 250 and 500 it was bronze.” That is, all the producers of olive oils eligible for the EU health claim received awards. Producers did not pay a fee to be considered for the award; they paid only for an analysis of their olive oil.

Emmanouil Karpadakis of Terra Creta, a Gold Award winner from Crete, explains that the Olympia Awards are completely different from most olive oil competitions. Other competitions’ judges “perform a sensory evaluation (organoleptic analysis) of the participating samples; they judge the taste, the aromas, the complexity, and other sensory evaluation parameters, in order to give a score” and determine the winners. However, for the Olympia Awards, “the main factor (apart from the basic analysis according to International Olive Council standards) is the level of polyphenols, meaning that they measure the healthy attributes of the samples. It is a totally different approach.”

Karpadakis considers his company’s Olympia Award important since some consumers are “interested not only in a natural taste but also in the healthy attributes of an olive oil.” Karpadakis explains that Terra Creta achieves such healthy EVOO by working closely with “very, very carefully selected farmers and our agronomist,” so they can “produce excellent batches of olives, transfer them in baskets, and extract them in our olive mill within eight hours of the harvest. In our advanced olive mill we have a very fast and very delicate extraction process to keep all nutritious elements at the highest possible level. Low temperatures, no added water, two phase extraction, and of course prompt extraction are some of the key points for a good, healthy olive oil.”

Chloe Dimitriadis of Biolea, another Cretan company, told Greek Liquid Gold their Gold Award validates “all the hard work and passion we put into our cultivation and production.” Aiming to discover their olive oil’s phenolic content, not to enter a competition, they were pleasantly surprised by their award. Dimitriadis adds, “the Olympia Awards are important because they emphasize that consumers need to be looking at olive oil quality beyond just the words ‘extra virgin’ on a label. High quality in olive oil does not just depend on acidity, and it does not just depend on organoleptics,” or the oil’s flavor and aroma.

Nikos Charamis of KASELL S.A. in Lakonia, Peloponnese, another Gold Award winner, comments that his company’s multiple awards for their olive oil’s health benefits “establish and strengthen the belief in both consumers and customers that we are producers of healthy EVOO.” Charamis is proud that his company is, as he says, “the only one who can produce this quality in such a great volume” in Greece.

Eleni Zotou of Golden Tree in Halkidiki, northern Greece, considers their Gold Award a “verification of our continuous effort to improve our work” in cooperation with scientists in order to produce the healthiest possible olive oil. Their olive groves are unusual: located in protected Natura areas, they contain wild and half wild olive trees that are at least 350 years old. Using an updated version of the traditional production process, Zotou and her colleagues carefully and respectfully avoid harming nature. Zotou explains that this leaves their certified organic, PDO olive oil with “0% residues of pesticides, as research centers have certified.” 

Gold Award winner Eftychis Androulakis of Pamako in Crete works hard harvesting olives by hand in his remote mountain groves, then attends to every detail and performs many experiments to come up with the best, healthiest “olive juice” he can produce. For him, “olive oil is a Hyperfood, not a superfood or just a food.”


Winners of 2017 Olympia Awards

The complete list of 2017 Olympia Award winners will be included in the Health Leaders International magazine that supported the event. Prokopios Magiatis explained to Greek Liquid Gold that a website now under construction, The Olive Oil Revolution, will eventually “present and promote all the commercially available oils that will be awarded through the World Olive Center for Health,” acting as “a portal through which all people will be able to find high quality olive oils with a certified health claim. The income from this website will be used exclusively for the support of research on olive oil and health.” For now, here is the impressively long list of Gold Award winners, producers of olive oils with an astounding 1000 mg/kg of phenolic compounds—or more. Most of them are producers of ultra healthy Greek extra virgin olive oil!

Gold Award Winners

ATSAS CYPRUS
ARIANNA TRADING, USA
BERKELEY OLIVE GROVE, USA
ECOLIBOR, SPAIN
OLIVICOLA degli ERNICI, ΙTALY
OLEA BLUE, USA
TERRA CRETA
AGRICULTURAL COOPERATIVE AG.NIKOLAOU VION “MALEAS”
AGRICULTURAL COOPERATIVE OF IMERA
ADIKIMENAKI MARIA
ALVENIOTIS KOSTAS
ANDROULAKIS EUTYXIOS, PAMAKO
VASILAKI ZACHAROULA, LADOPETRA
VLACHOS LAMBROS
DAFNIS G&S, THE GOVERNOR
DIMITRIADI CHLOE, BIOLEA
DREMETSIKAS ANTONIS, ASKLEPIOS
ZOTOU ELENI-AIKATERINI, GOLDEN TREE
THEODORAKOPOULOS ALEXANDROS
THERIANOS DIMITRIS
KALAMPOKA KONSTANTINA, IRINI-OLIVE OIL
KAMPOURIS IOANNIS, E-LA-WON
ΚΑPAMY
KARTALIS CHRISTOS
KASELL
KOGERAKIS STERGIOS
KOKKINAKIS GEORGIOS, Pasiphaë
KONTAKOU STAMATIKI
KRIMNIANOTIS NIKOLAOS- LIVA
CRITIDA
KOUNELAKIS VALANTIS-KONSTANTAKI KATERINA
LANTZANAKI GEORGIA-LANTZANAKIS MANOLIS, LANTZANAKIS ESTATE
LEKKAS VAGELIS
LIMNIOTIS SOTIRIS
MATHIOPOULOS, THE GREEK OLIVE ESTATE, DROP OF LIFE
MARTINOU IOANNA
MPAKALMPASI CHRISTINA
MPEIS VASILIS - ZIRO
BOTSAS ARISTEIDIS
NIKOLAKOPOULOS ILIAS - OLEO
NIKOLOULIA
NOKAS VASILIS
OIKONOMOU DIMITRIS
PANAGOPOULOU AIKATERINI
PANETHYMITAKIS ALEXANDROS
PAPAVASILEIOU VASILIS
PAPADAKIS KONSTANTINOS-EROTOKRITOS
PACHIADAKIS KRITOLEOS
PAHNOS MIHALIS, ARBORBEATA
PETROPOULAKIS NIKOLAOS, MESOGEIAKI GI
PETROPOULOS KOSTAS-DOXIADI ANTHI
PETROPOULOS DIMITRIS
PIROUNIAS MANOS, OLEΑ ΗΕΑLΤΗ
PRENTOULIS SPIROS, NORTH CORFU OLIVE GROVE
RETZEKA METAXIA
ROSSA FILIPPAS, BELLACRET
SKOURTIS PANAGIOTIS
TZATZANAS STYLIANOS
TITAKI ELLISAVET, ELLI’s FARM
TSONIS VASILEIOS
TSONIS PETROS
FANOURGAKIS PANTELIS
FASOULAKIS DIMITRIOS
CHRISTODOULOPOULOS BROS
PSARROS MARKOS

___________

Thanks to Prokopios Magiatis for his help with this article and for permission to share these photos. Thanks also to the producers who offered comments.

Selected Future Events

Selected Past Events