Jose Amerigo, Dimitris Therianos, and Prokopios Magiatis with Therianos award in Malaga

In Málaga, Spain in May, the Health Matters International Convention included the 4th Congress of the Oleocanthal International Society and the awards ceremonies for the World Best Healthy EVOO Contest and the Health and Food Awards. Scientists discussed research, and some of the world’s healthiest olive oils, including three from Greece, received awards.

In the final results of the World Best Healthy EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) Contest, three Greek companies were among the top ten, with Kasell coming in at #5. Eirini Plomariou was distinguished as first for Fatty Acid Balance, the Therianos Family came in first for Oleocanthal Content, and Kasell was listed in the top ten for both of those categories as well as in the third category, Total Phenols—the only company among the top ten in all three categories.

Focused on large olive oil companies with a major impact on the market – those able to reserve 4000 kg of olive oil just for the needs of the competition – this contest mainly attracted Spanish olive oils, as well as a few from Greece, Australia, and the USA. One of the judges, Dr. Prokopios Magiatis of the University of Athens, explained to Greek Liquid Gold that “the World Best Healthy EVOO Contest is a competition for olive oils based on their healthy ingredients” instead of the flavor and aroma that are the focus of most competitions.

This includes the healthy ingredients recognized by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2012 when they approved a health claim about olive oil that 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.” The winning olive oils in this contest had far more polyphenols than that, so less of them is required to attain a significant health benefit.

Why so much emphasis on phenols? Numerous scientific studies suggest that oleocanthal, one of the phenols found in oil from certain varieties of olives, is an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agent that may help prevent or treat such illnesses as Alzheimer’s, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Another phenol found in olive oil, oleacein, is an anti-oxidant that could help the fight against heart failure, hypertension, and oxidative stress. Some studies suggest that oleic acid, one of the fatty acids found in olive oil, may help fight off cancer and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, as well as helping wounds to heal.

The 4th Congress of the Oleocanthal International Society included presentations by scientists from Spain, the USA, the UK, and Greece who discussed new findings about the influence of oleocanthal on prediabetes, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s, among other things. Prokopios Magiatis was especially struck by evidence of the absorption of oleocanthal in the human body and by the discovery that “the addition of high oleocanthal olive oil in the food of animals could completely block the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.”

As Magiatis explained to Greek Liquid Gold, “the Health and Food Awards are given by the Oleocanthal Society to scientists/chefs/companies/institutes based on their contribution to the promotion of several aspects related to olive oil, health, and phenolics.” The same Greek producers who won World Best awards were recognized at the Health and Food Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards as among the “Best Master[s] of Olive Mill / Engineering / Chemistry interested in Healthy Proven EVOO.” Dimitris Therianos of the Therianos Family won the Bronze Award for his work as Master of the Mill, while Kasell received a Silver Diploma and Eirini Plomariou was recognized with a Bronze Diploma.

Nikos Charamis of Kasell S.A. in Lakonia was delighted that his company received these distinctions in Spain, the country that produces the most olive oil in the world, with one award presented by Greek Chef Maria Loi from Estiatorio Restaurant in New York. Charamis emphasizes that Kasell is especially noteworthy as a Greek olive oil company that produces very large volumes of healthy EVOO each year, doing “what we do every year: we did not change a single thing. Pursuing quality is something we all need to do systematically, and not once or by chance.”

Following the strong earthquake that shook their island, Lesvos, Nikos and Myrta Kalampoka told Greek Liquid Gold they were grateful to have something to distract them from their island’s suffering, which had begun earlier with the Greek financial crisis and the refugee crisis. The Kalampokas are glad that their olive oil can make their area, Plomari, famous for something positive. They explain that they have succeeded in proving “that Eirini Plomariou EVOO is high quality in lab analyses, pharmaceutical analyses, and organoleptic analyses” every year following 1996, “when we started cultivation.”

The Kalampokas work with passion and a determination to learn, stay up to date on new developments, and experiment with organic cultivation—after finishing their work as schoolteachers, and while running an agrotourism farm that welcomes and educates visitors! Myrta Kalampoka urges, “don’t forget us”—the people on the struggling island of Lesvos“buy our healthy EVOO, and in that way you support us!”

Dimitris Therianos reported to Greek Liquid Gold from the island of Zakynthos that the Therianos family’s award encourages them “to continue on the path of quality and health with the products that Mother Earth offers us,” especially the products of that “wonder of nature,” the olive tree. Inspired by “the texts of ancient Greek healer researchers who wrote that olive oil is a medicine for humans,” Therianos “collaborated with professors and scientists, analyzing the quality of olive oil and sharing the university knowledge that has been gained over thousands of years.”

Therianos appreciates “the work of the Spanish doctor Jose Antonio Amerigo, founder of the Oleocanthal International Society, who brought together scientists from all over the world to present the benefits of olive oil and the value of polyphenols, and especially oleocanthal as one of the most important polyphenols of olive oil for our health.” Therianos is glad that the convention presented “university and clinical research so that the benefits of olive oil as a natural product with health protective properties for our body are recognized and disclosed.” He adds, with “the recognition of its healthful properties, olive oil regains the value it had in ancient times as a product that people used as food supplements. These [healthy EVOO] competitions shake the waters that have been stagnant over the years.”

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Thanks to Dimitris Therianos and Kasell for sharing the photos used with this article. Thanks to all who provided information and comments.

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