Olive oil, part of the Mediterranean diet plan, has been thought to be unhealthy in the past. However, we now know it's positively loaded with healthy fats, with large amounts of antioxidants and strong anti-inflammatory properties. New research suggests it could play a part in fighting some of the negative effects of aging, alongside the best vitamins for women over 50 and supplements for men over 50.
However, it can't do it alone. It's not enough to just drizzle olive oil on your salad (or a doorstop-thick piece of sourdough): you need to give it a helping hand by restricting your calories and exercising regularly.
The study, published by researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School (opens in new tab), found one of the ingredients in olive oil is a compound known as resveratrol, which can activate a certain pathway in cells known to increase lifespan and prevent age-related diseases.
Lead study author Doug Mashek, PhD, found just eating olive oil wasn't enough. To activate the pathway in a more meaningful way, his researchers found the effects of resveratrol were at their best when combined with trying to lose weight by fasting, limiting caloric intake and exercising regularly.
Mashek said: "We found that the way this fat works is it first has to get stored in microscopic things called lipid droplets, which is how our cells store fat. And then, when the fat is broken down during exercising or fasting, for example, is when the signaling and beneficial effects are realized."
The Mediterranean diet is known to be one of the best ways to eat healthily: full of fish, nuts, grilled vegetables and healthy sources of fat, it's very light on red meat and processed carbohydrates, which tend to increase our risk of early death when eaten in excess. Already a healthy diet, exercising regularly and eating smaller portions can help the resveratrol in olive oil keep you healthy well into later life.
As we get older, are muscles naturally waste away due to a process called atrophy, making our bodies weaker and frail. Building muscle with weights fights against this process, keeping us strong and healthy.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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