We want to look our best, especially during summer, but products marketed as having antiaging properties are often expensive with no promise of results. But what if a cheap, widely available plant oil was actually effective in fighting the aging process? Research has suggested that the ubiquitous olive oil may not only benefit cardiovascular health, but also fight wrinkles.
The health benefits of olive oil are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities, which prompted research into what effects it may have on skin aging. A cross-sectional study was then performed on 1,264 women and 1,655 men between 45 and 60 years old. Dietary intake of mono-unsaturated fats was estimated through diet records, and severity of skin photoaging was graded by trained investigators using a 6-point scale. "Photoaging" is what it sounds like: aging caused by high UV radiation exposure. Overall, a higher intake of mono-unsaturated fats (MUFAs) (highest vs lowest quartile) reduced the risk of severe photoaging by 24%. For MUFAs in vegetable oils, being in the highest quartile of consumption resulted in a 37% reduced risk for women and a 45% reduction for men. Only olive oil had a significant effect on skin aging. Therefore, increasing your olive oil intake, in salad dressings and dips to prevent heat-related oxidative damage, could be another simple antiaging tool. If you don't like olive oil, you can always make your own skincare products rich in the oil or apply it straight to your skin. I myself mix it with honey and turmeric powder about once a week, keeping it on my face and neck for 5-10 minutes.
How does olive oil work, if it's just an oil? One "active ingredient" may be oleuropein. In a study on elderly mice, oleuropein significantly increased collagen production and growth of epithelial tissue over several days. It was found that the oleuropein raised levels of a growth factor which promotes wound healing. Olive oil could also change the expression of what was once thought to be untouchable: our genes. In a double-blind, randomised crossover trial, volunteers with metabolic syndrome were given olive oil-rich breakfasts with either a low or high phenol content. They all followed the same diet during this period too. The phenols in olive oil were found to modify the expression of 98 different genes, some of which were directly involved in inflammation. Aging is now sometimes known as "inflammaging", because so many age-related diseases have underlying inflammatory causes.
Olive oil could also have positive effects on another end-point of antiaging: mortality reduction. For this study, the results from the over forty thousand Spanish participants of the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) were used. During 13 years of follow-up, the highest quartile of olive oil consumption was linked with a 26% lower risk of dying when compared to those who did not consume any olive oil. There was also a 44% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. With every increase in olive oil intake of 10 grams, there was a 7% reduced risk of dying from any cause. There appeared to be a greater protective effect in people who did not smoke. All of these studies, and many more, point to olive oil being a valuable addition to your diet (unless heated past its smoke point) or skincare regime.
Alexandra Preston is a degree-qualified naturopath located in Bundall on the Gold Coast. For any questions, including to book an appointment, click here.