2 vials of Eureka olive oil next to a gold box

In a unique Greek-American collaboration, the World Olive Center for Health is working with the UC Davis Olive Center to raise money for olive oil research by selling extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) called Eureka. Packaged in a box that looks like a bar of gold, Eureka contains two vials of high phenolic “liquid gold”—that is, especially healthy EVOO.

The two olive centers and their leaders have already collaborated many times, but this is the first time Greek and American high phenolic extra virgin olive oils with an official European Union health claim are being sold together in one package. Dr. Eleni Melliou, president of the non-profit World Olive Center for Health (WOCH) in Athens, developed this idea and proposed it to Dan Flynn, executive director of the University of California at Davis Olive Center, who gladly embraced the suggestion.

Dan Flynn, Eleni Melliou, and others at olive tree adoption by the Acropolis

High phenolic olive oil is extra virgin olive oil that is rich in the natural phenolic compounds that make the oil pungent and bitter, compounds whose health benefits include antioxidant properties recognized by the European Food Safety Authority’s health claim for olive oil. Usually obtained from olives harvested early, before they are fully ripe, high phenolic EVOO has also been associated with anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, and anticarcinogenic effects, among other benefits.

Melliou and Flynn are well aware of how important it is to both spotlight and study high phenolic EVOOs. In fact, that is the goal of the World Olive Center for Health, which has helped support research that has shown high phenolic EVOO can help people with mild cognitive impairment avoid Alzheimer’s. WOCH has also backed an animal study that offers hope that oleacein from early harvest EVOO could have a beneficial effect in the treatment of multiple sclerosis in humans. Moreover, WOCH is subsidizing research into high phenolic EVOO’s ability to help treat or fight off chronic lymphocytic leukemia, skin cancer, diabetes, and high cholesterol.  

Starting around the end of January 2021, the general public will be able to both try samples of Greek and American high phenolic EVOOs and, in so doing, help fund the work of WOCH and the UC Davis Olive Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute. Eureka will be available internationally through WOCH’s e-shop, at UC Davis stores in California, and at WOCH’s new Olive Lab and Shop in the center of Athens (76 Ymittou Street, Pangrati). Slated to open in January, Melliou reports, the store in Athens “will be the first olive oil shop where the quality will be certified in front of the eyes of the customers using Aristometro technology” to measure healthy phenolic content.

[Update, March 2021: due to the pandemic, Eureka's availability has been delayed. Melliou hopes it will be available through WOCH's e-shop at the end of March and expects WOCH's Olive Lab and Shop to open by the end of April. Eureka will probably be available at the UC Davis bookstore in the summer of

Eureka’s name—a Greek word adopted into English—was inspired by the seal of the state of California. As Melliou explains, when Flynn showed her the seal she “saw the goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom and the symbol of the University of Athens, and behind her there was a gold digger who had just discovered gold.” The seal includes the word “Eureka,” a Greek word meaning “I found,” which the mathematician and inventor Archimedes is said to have uttered more than two thousand years ago when he made a great discovery. Melliou, too, exclaimed “Eureka!” convinced that she had found the name for this new Greek-American product.

As Flynn said, “Greek democratic ideals had a profound influence on California’s founders, which were reflected by the prominent image of Athena on the great seal of the state of California, by our state capitol building’s Greek architecture, and in the selection of Eureka as California’s state motto. We wanted to reflect the innovation, optimism, and excellence shared by Greece and California by featuring two outstanding high phenolic olive oils in Eureka.”

The California state seal also inspired Melliou to suggest that the Eureka package contain the two EVOOS “in a golden box like a gold bar, because of the gold digger on the seal. The Californians found gold years ago, and my thought was to put inside the gold bar the liquid gold which is olive oil and the new ‘gold’ product of California.”

As Melliou explained, the California olive oil in Eureka is mainly from Greek varieties grown in the UC Davis Olive Center’s orchard in Winters, California; this year it was harvested on November 10. The Greek olive oil for Eureka will be donated by one or more of the top winners of the Olympia Health and Nutrition Awards. For the 2019/20 harvest year, the donation came from Olympia Gold award winner Sotiris Limniotis.

The Eureka project got off the ground slowly last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with 200 packages sold as business gifts in Spain. 2021 is the first year Eureka will be available to the general public. It comes in a small size (2 x 25 ml or 2 x 0.84 fl. oz. of EVOO in a gold box) that is perfect for a luxurious little gift, souvenir, or sample that can be consumed all at once, thus preserving its health benefits.

Based on the study she directed, Dr. Magda Tsolaki “recommends that anyone concerned about getting Alzheimer’s consume 50 ml/day of high phenolic or moderate phenolic extra virgin olive oil.” As the press release for a study on an animal model of MS says, “the daily consumption of extra virgin olive oil of early harvest - fresh olive oil with certified high content of phenols and especially oleacein is a shield of protection of the central nervous system and can probably protect against the deterioration of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.” These are just two of the possible benefits of high phenolic EVOO. Those who wish to help scientists learn more about the immense value of this type of liquid gold can support their research with a purchase of Eureka (starting in January) or a donation.

Thanks to Dr. Eleni Melliou for the photos used with this article.

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and/or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as anyone else interested in supporting Greeks working in these sectors, are invited to consider the advertising and sponsorship opportunities on the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website. The only wide-ranging English-language site featuring news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has helped companies reach consumers in more than 200 countries around the globe.

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