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How to Buy Olive Oil Without Getting Scammed

by Barbara Minton
See all TBYIL articles by Barbara Minton

(The Best Years in Life) Experts far and wide proclaim the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. One of the reasons they point to is the fact that extra virgin olive oil is much less processed than oils made from vegetable seeds. Extra virgin olive oil is expensive compared to seed oils, but the extra cost is clearly worth it when you consider those tremendous benefits. Unfortunately, when you buy a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, that is not necessarily what you get.

Olive oil is a mainstay in the best diet on earth

The health and therapeutic benefits of olive oil were first mentioned by Hippocrates, who declared that food was the best and only medicine worth using. Olive oil is one of the foundations of the Mediterranean diet, the only diet that has been proven to reduce the risk of death from all causes. Olive oil is one reason Mediterranean women have such glowing complexions and beautiful hair. And it is one reason Mediterranean men have such gorgeous muscles.

Olive oil is rich in antioxidants that discourage artery clogging and chronic diseases involving the cardiovascular system. A study done in Greece involving more than 1900 people found that using olive oil exclusively cut their risk of coronary heart disease almost in half. Those who consumed two tablespoons of olive oil daily for one week showed less oxidation of LDL cholesterol and higher blood levels of antioxidant compounds. Another recent study has shown olive oil to be effective against HER-2 positive breast cancer. People who use olive oil regularly have lower rates of atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer and asthma.

Dietary fats fall into three categories:

*Saturated fat which comes from animals, coconuts and palm trees
*Polyunsaturated fat that comes from seeds, nuts and vegetable oil
*Monounsaturated fats which come from olives and safflower oil
Most of the benefits of olive oil do not derive from its being a monounsaturated fat, but rather from the high levels of polyphenols it contains.


The great olive oil scam

True extra virgin olive oil is nothing but the oil that comes from the first pressing of olives. This is why it contains such a high level of polyphenols, antioxidants and nutrients. True extra virgin olive oil is not refined in any way with chemical solvents or high heat. Its taste and smell should resemble that of fresh olives with no overtones of anything else. It should smell inviting and exciting, not musty or rancid. The oil from subsequent pressings contains only what is left over. This is why extra virgin olive oil commands a higher price.

Unfortunately the tantalizing thought of that higher price motivates many olive oil distributers to adulterate their oil. Some even go so far as to adulterate oil from second or third pressings, which is sold simply as olive oil. So there is a good chance that when you choose a bottle of extra virgin olive oil or one labeled simply as olive oil, you are not getting what you think you are getting, and you are not getting what you are paying for.

In 2010, the University of California at Davis published an extensive report on the fraudulent labeling of extra virgin olive oil. Several common brands sold in the U.S. were found to be adulterated with lower quality oils. These included:

Filippo Berio
Newman's Own
Rachel Ray
Whole Foods

Brands found to be accurately labeled as extra virgin olive oil include:

Kirkland Organic
Corto Olive
California Olive Ranch
McEvoy Ranch Organic

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and scandalous World of Olive Oil is a book by Tom Mueller that chronicles how resellers have added lower-priced, lower-grade oils and artificial coloring to extra virgin olive oil, and passed the adulterated product along the supply chain. One producer told Mueller that at least 50 percent of the olive oil sold in the U.S. is adulterated.

Extra virgin olive oil that has been adulterated loses the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties you are buying it for, according to Mueller. When you buy unadulterated oil, you get a cocktail of more than 200 highly beneficial compounds. This explains why extra virgin olive oil is credited with producing many of the benefits to be had from eating the Mediterranean diet. Adulterated oil that is mixed with oil from subsequent pressings and/or some sort of vegetable oil, will have free radicals and impurities rather than the expected beneficial compounds.

Mueller points out that many bottles of oil labeled as olive oil actually contain no olive oil at all. And he notes that only about 4 out of every 10 bottles of olive oil that say they come from Italy are actually Italian olive oil. This is because any producer can send any kind of oil to Italy to have it bottled. He calls it legalized fraud.

How can you avoid getting scammed?

Never buy olive oil unless the bottle clearly states it is 100 % extra virgin olive oil. This is no assurance you won't get scammed, but it cuts down your odds considerably, as does buying olive oil labeled as organic. Take it home and smell it and taste it. If it smells like olives and is wonderfully inviting, it is the real thing. If it does not, take the bottle and your receipt back to where you bought and ask for a refund. Buy another brand and try it, until you get one that tastes like it should.

Beware of buying olive oil that says it is extra light. Any oil with this label will have undergone considerable processing and will have little of the taste and health benefits you want. The name extra light is there to fool you into thinking it's low in fat, but all olive oil contains the same amount of fat. There is no regulation, certification or standard for oil that is labeled in this fashion, and you could be getting anything.

See also:

The Mediterranean Diet Reviewed

For more information:

About the Author:

Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.

See other articles by the Barbara Minton here:

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