David Calma asked:
Why is it that people say olive oil-based butter is better for your health?
We put this question to Bryan Lockwood, I'm a Professor of Pharmaceutical Science at the University of Manchester:
Bryan - Olive oil has obviously got a long historic use in food and the olives have been eaten for a long time. By now of course, thereís plenty of other dietary oils which we use as well. The recent increases in interest in health in westernised countries particularly those in the northern hemisphere has stimulated a vast amount of interest in research into the fat content of our diets. Linked to this, thereís an increasing volume of epidemiological evidence which suggests that dairy and animal fats are less healthy, and this is now pretty widely understood in the medical fraternity and also, in the general public at large.
(c) Alex Ex" alt="Olive Oil" />The main reasons why olive oil is supposedly beneficial for you is that the main lipid is oleic acid or oleic acid triglyceride, and itís about 3 quarters of that, and this is a particular type of fatty acid which is unsaturated. In fact, itís a mono unsaturated fatty acid which is accepted as being good for health. Thereís also some poly unsaturated fatty acids which of course have been widely discussed in the lay literature as well, again, highly beneficial for your health.
Both olive oils and seed oils in general have been showen to reduce low density lipoprotein lipid cholesterol which is abbreviated to LDL-C. This is commonly referred to as the bad type of cholesterol. Total cholesterol is also reduced. The combination of these two activities generally reduces a possibility of cholesterol depositing in the arteries.
Diana - So, olive oil is lower in saturated fat and the more olive oil there is in butter or margarine, the less dairy fat will be present, and therefore, less saturated fat. Our expert added that olive oil also contains high levels of anti-oxidants, and that these prevent free radicals from running around inside your body, damaging cells. But thereís no conclusive evidence that anti-oxidants when taken via food actually make that much of a difference. But some people say, olive oil is less healthy when you fry it. Why might this be?
Bryan - Olive oil is quite interesting due to the high level of polyphenolics. You can actually see in the case of virgin oils and extra virgin oils, itís a green to dark green colour. This is judged to be of quality by the food sales people. If you happen to heat olive oil in a frying pan or a pan and get it up to about 93 degrees centigrade, it smokes, and this is obviously degradation of the oil. So, itís not beneficial to burn the olive oil itself, and in fact, this destroys its properties later on, so its anti-oxidant activity is dramatically decreased.
Diana - So there you are. Olive oil smokes slightly earlier than other oils, but if the clinical trials are anything to go by, it may be that losing a few anti-oxidants isnít a great loss.
Without any concrete lab tests to back my theories, I can only bring some lay analysis and personal observation to the table. This being the case, I think in so many cases of health related questions, people get so tied up in what's 'new' or what's 'different' from their normal routine that they'll jump on just about any bandwagon (consider acai berries vs. run of the mill blueberries).
I am with Tay on that one.
I beg to differ. Butter is clearly detrimental to health when eaten regularly. I recall someone talking about cooking in Britain during the fifties who spoke of only being able to find olive oil in Britain in small bottles in a pharmacy. So it isn't surprising to me that a great deal of ignorance persists locally.
I would like to add as a postscript that I just had some delicious corn on the cob dressed with a butter substitute which is marketed here in California. Olive oil doesn't quite do it on sweet corn. Whereas butter has 9 grams of fat/tablespoon , this stuff has 5 and is reputed to lower your LDL. I don't know if the jury is in on that last bit, but if you use it sparingly in place of butter you don't feel like such a martyr. There is a lot of marketing hype on "butter substitutes" but if you read the label and look for one whose name starts with a "b" (not Blue Bonnet margarine) you might be pleasantly surprised. MartinTheK, Sat, 18th Sep 2010
I wouldn't dream of hazarding an opinion on the physiology of the Sassenach race any more than I would the bandar-log. You are welcome to eat as much of whatever you may wish and good luck to you. Knock yourselves out.
It occurred to me while I was having lunch at the Cafe Citi next to the Einkiddu winery in Kenwood, that some of the gentle readers may wonder how to get more olive oil into their diet.
Yep, we all know the research on the omegas and fatty acids. Isn't funny how we automatically presume that the latest research contains all the best information as if it isn't likely that next week someone will discover the converse is true. Take the much maligned butter (although currently scientifically more harmful than olive oil) which tastes better on most things if you were raised on it. (my children prefer margarine/olive spreads because they were raised on them). Some of the latest research discusses the amazing anti-cancer and anti inflammatory effects in the colon and other areas, of butyric acid. How do we get butyric acid into the colon? Butter. I'm not saying it's necessarily "better" but it may not be the arch nemesis of olive oil. It may be one of many nutritional partners required to maintain our health.
Paula Deen would probably agree with you Grover. Geezer, Mon, 20th Sep 2010
Ah but in order to make the olive oil into a butter, mostly solid at UK room temperature, they hydrogenate it. This removes some, if not all of the double bonds and makes it more of a saturated fat thus removing the health benefits.
I have recently found information that suggests that olive oil opens the gall bladder and helps release gall stones. Those stones are mostly cholesterol that have probably been formed from butter and various meats in the diet. I might venture to suggest that olive oil (in its liquid form) is the opposite of butter in, at least, some of its effects. Cosmos, Fri, 2nd May 2014
Lifestyle is important when evaluating this kind of question. Dairy products high in saturated fats seem particularly damaging to people living relatively sedentary lives. On the other hand, the Amish have a far higher than average consumption of full-fat dairy products (using industrialised nations as the yardstick), but suffer well-below average rates of cardiovascular disease. The fact that their levels of physical activity are many times higher than average may have something to do with it. dlorde, Fri, 2nd May 2014
Just cook on a low heat, to sum it up basically. Dan, Sat, 24th Sep 2016