Besides taste, scientists now offer another reason why people should drizzle their food with extra-virgin olive oil. A chemical analysis suggests that a molecule isolated from this grade of oil, which comes from the first pressing of the fruit, has anti-inflammatory effects similar to those of ibuprofen. The finding may explain some of the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet.
This style of eating, now popular beyond its origins in southern Europe, consists mostly of vegetables, with small servings of meat, moderate amounts of wine, and plenty of olive oil. Since the 1950s, scientists have known that people who follow this diet have lower rates of dementia, heart disease, strokes, and some types of cancer than do people who eat other combinations of foods. Researchers remain unsure about which specific foods are responsible for these positive effects, notes Paul Breslin of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.