Looking over the audience toward the speakers at the Olympia Awards ceremony in the Old Parliament in Athens

The Olympia Health and Nutrition Awards ceremony in Athens spotlighted high phenolic olive oils and evidence of their ability to help fight many diseases. For example, groundbreaking study results announced there suggest that high phenolic olive oils help combat at least one type of leukemia, breast cancer, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s. 

Professor Andrea Paola Rojas Gil revealed “striking results,” according to the World Olive Center for Health website, which “showed a decrease or stabilization of white blood cells, a specific death of cancer cells, and a fall in cancer markers in a significant number of patients. At the same time, olive oil improved a series of biochemical indices without any negative effect on patients. This year’s results confirmed the initials announced last year in a smaller number of patients and give great optimism for the future.”

This discovery from the University of Peloponnese is crucial, because it is the first time the world has seen such “strong indications about the healing properties of high oleocanthal olive oil in oncology patients, and not only in experimental animals.” Rojas Gil’s team was investigating the effect of olive oil rich in the phenolic compound oleocanthal on 30 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia or monoclonal gammopathy of unspecified significance. They used The Governor extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), which was donated by the Dafnis family.

More than 300 olive oil producers and scientists attended the event at the Old Parliament on May 12 where scientists from the USA, Greece, and Cyprus also announced a number of other important results from experimental and clinical trials using high phenolic olive oil. This is olive oil rich in the phenolic compounds that make the oil bitter and pungent, compounds whose many health benefits include antioxidant properties recognized by the European Food Safety Authority’s health claim for olive oil.

As explained in the Aristoil project’s guide for producers, the European “health claim refers to the protective role of phenolic compounds against the oxidation of blood lipids, one of the main mechanisms involved in the development of cardiovascular diseases,” when 20 g of olive oil with at least 250 mg of phenolic compounds per kg of olive oil are consumed each day.

At the Olympia Health & Nutrition Awards ceremony, significant results from two American university studies were publicly disclosed for the first time. They showed that high phenolic olive oil and its active ingredients, especially oleocanthal, slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer in experimental animals. Even better results were achieved in combination with traditional drug therapy.

Three new clinical trials using high phenolic olive oil were also announced: studies of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), volunteers with diabetes, and athletes’ stamina. Initial results are expected in about a year for MS and by the end of 2019 for the other trials.

Noteworthy results have already been obtained in the world’s first clinical study of the effect of high phenolic olive oil on patients with mild cognitive impairment. Professor Magda Tsolaki and her team at the University of Thessaloniki showed that Chalkidiki early harvest EVOO with a high phenolic content (donated by Ioannis and Evi Prodromou of Yanni’s Olive Grove) can reduce some symptoms in patients with mild cognitive impairment (a precursor for Alzheimer’s disease). This reduction occurred after daily consumption of 40 g of this EVOO for almost two years. Initial results announced last year had already shown that high phenolic olive oil provides protection to the central nervous system.

The high phenolic olive oils that were used in the clinical studies in the US and Greece were selected from thousands of samples by the team of Professor Prokopios Magiatis at the Pharmacognosy Laboratory of the University of Athens. These studies were funded by donors through the nonprofit World Olive Center for Health (WOCH), whose president, Dr. Eleni Melliou, invited donations to help finance additional clinical studies. By supporting clinical studies of the protective or therapeutic action of high phenolic olive oils in relation to various diseases, the WOCH aims to bolster the financial well-being of olive oil producers.

The Leventis Foundation and LIVA SA awarded grants to three PhD students to support research that will be monitored by the World Olive Center for Health. These researchers will study olive oil phenolics, the effect of high oleocanthal olive oil on diabetic patients, and the impact of a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil on Huntington’s disease.

After research results and plans were discussed, the Olympia Health & Nutrition awards were presented to some of the producers of 1569 samples of olive oil from 8 countries that were analyzed to determine their concentration of the health protective substances that are the focus of the European health claim for olive oil. Awards were based only on the extent to which the olive oils were judged to benefit human health.

There were 28 gold winners from Greece, with the healthiest of these produced by Alexandros Choumerianos in Crete. Choumerianos told Greek Liquid Gold his Koroneiki extra virgin olive oil came from his own olive groves near the city of Heraklion. Three years of experimentation and complete control of the production process in his own mill enabled him to create this extra healthy EVOO.

The Olympia Health & Nutrition awards were organized by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the World Olive Center for Health. The awards ceremony took place as part of the European program Interreg Med Aristoil, in which Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Italy and Croatia participate under the scientific supervision of Professor Prokopios Magiatis. The program is coordinated by EGTC Efxini Poli with the cooperation of the Region of Peloponnese. Dr. Nikolaos Krimnianiotis, coordinator of the Aristoil project, announced the creation of the MED Health olive oil cluster, which will be an association of Mediterranean producers from the five countries participating in the project.

Olive oil producer Eftychis Androulakis introduced another initiative, Golden Gift of Olive Tree, a unique nonprofit private company composed of five Greek and Cypriot companies that produce high phenolic extra virgin olive oil from different olive varieties in different locations: Pamako, Golden Tree, The Governor, Atsas, and Strakka. Aiming to promote biodiversity, Greek and Cypriot olive oil, and high phenolic EVOOs and their health benefits, this company will invite consumers and benefactors to adopt olive trees whose oil they will be able to enjoy, along with other benefits. Most of the profits will be donated to the World Olive Center for Health; the rest will help educate olive farmers. 

Thanks to the World Olive Center for Health for sharing the information and photos for this article.

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