Olives, Olive Oil, and Health in Egypt

Economics aside, not all Mediterranean peoples exhibited enviable health. In 2018, Egypt ranked 126th in e° at 74.4years, with men dying four years younger than women.147 Heart disease is the greatest killer at 34 percent of Egyptian deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland.148 These data challenge belief that olive oil is “the healthiest fat” and “the best oil for your health,” particularly because Egyptians eat numerous olives.149 If olive oil benefits the body, olives should also confer vitality.150 That olives do not benefit Egyptians raises doubts about olive oil.

Hoffman and Gerber sidestepped the issue of olive oil by faulting Egyptians for frying foods in ghee (see Chapter 7), which has saturated fat, and for eating too little fish, whose benefits Chapter 5 examined.151 Despite these authors’ concern about ghee, Egyptians’ heart disease and modest longevity compared with the rest of the world seem incongruous with their consumption of olives, vegetables, legumes, and little meat.

Olive Oil and Health in Modern Greece

No less troubling is Greece, once the exemplar of Mediterranean vigor. In 1953, Allbaugh gushed at Cretan slenderness, but by 2010 Greece ranked third worst among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in obesity for women and in the middle for men.152 Half Greek men and one-third women were overweight. Obesity and overweight plagued children in addition to adults. Between roughly 1965 and 2000, increases in meat and dairy intake raised calories from a daily average of 2,900 to 3,700.153 Parallel to this development, Greeks emulated other developed nations’ inactivity. Between 1965 and 2005, the average Cretan gained mass despite cutting daily calories from 2,820 to 2,412. Such circumstances justify this book’s emphasis on exertion as essential to health.

Olive Oil and Calories

Although Hoffman and Gerber did not blame olive oil for obesity and overweight, 100 grams of olive oil have 884 calories, as noted. Returning to Table 4.1, olive oil has more calories by mass than the flesh of all six animals: bison, deer, sheep, goat, pig, and cow. Compared to other caloric foods by mass, olive oil has 43.2 percent more calories than walnuts, 47.3 percent more than dry-roasted almonds, 47.8 percent more than dark chocolate, 55.9 percent more than raw peanuts, 56.6 percent more than raw pistachios, 174.5 percent more than egg yolk, and 651.7 percent more than avocado.154 Among fast foods and similar items, 100 grams of olive oil have more calories than a Burger King Whopper with cheese, two Starbuck’s plain bagels, two of its glazed donuts, four Krispy Kreme glazed donuts, or four Dunkin Donuts mocha swirl lattes, each 283.5 grams (10 ounces).155

In the context of energy, Chapter 2 listed fat as the densest source at 9.4 calories per gram.156 That is, no food can surpass 940 calories per 100 grams. This amount functions as a dietary ceiling analogous to the dictum in physics that light speed (299,792 kilometers per second) is the maximum in the universe.157 Just as no food can exceed 940 calories per 100 grams, nothing can travel faster than light. At 884 calories per 100 grams, olive oil tallies 94 percent of the maximum. Completing the analogy, 94 percent of light speed is around 281,804.5 kilometers per second, an enormous number. This information, coupled with earlier remarks, emphasizes olive oil’s status as especially caloric.

Although disconcerting, these numbers may not rule out olive oil, though its abundant calories tread the path toward overindulgence, especially when not offset by strenuous exertions. For example, olive oil’s 884 calories in 100 grams supply enough energy for an 83.9-kilogram (185-pound) person to cut grass for over two hours with a push mower or to pedal a bicycle 19.3 kilometers per hour (12 miles/hour) for over one hour.158 Laxity uses less energy. For example, this individual must stand almost eight hours to metabolize all 884 calories.

Earlier chapters announced this book’s determination not to excoriate calories. The issue is less energy than nutrient density. The fact that junk foods are unwholesome is evident to anyone who has consulted their nutrition labels only to find many calories and a long sequence of zeroes beside the various nutrients. The exception is sodium, which is too prevalent in modern diets. Such foods create a strange reality in which consumers eagerly buy products with nonexistent nutrients. In no other sphere of the economy do consumers willingly purchase nothing. They may retort, however, that they have bought something, namely pleasure in the form of deliciousness. Yet this pleasure is transitory, especially when it saps vitality.

Olive Oil’s Nutrients

Olive oil transcends junk because Table 10.2 shows that 100 grams have 95.7 percent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) daily value (DV) for vitamin E and 75.3 percent for vitamin K.159 Beyond this duo, olive oil has phytochemicals that act as antioxidants and reduce inflammation. Chapter 2 discussed phytochemicals and antioxidants. Olive oil’s antioxidants hydroxytyrosol (C8H1H0,), oleuropein (C25H32Ol3), and squalene (C30H50) may reduce incidences of colon, breast, ovary, and prostate cancers.160 Olive oil’s anti-inflammatory properties may lessen the risk of atherosclerosis, stroke, and heart attack, and its phytochemicals may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

Olive oil’s nutrients invite comparison in Table 10.2 with olives, 100 grams of which supply 105 calories: just 11.9 percent of the calories in the same amount of olive oil.161 Whereas olive oil lacks fiber, 100 grams of olives furnish 3 grams of it. By mass, olives have only 11.5 percent as much vitamin E as olive oil.162 Yet 100 grams of olives contain 12 percent DV for copper and 18.4 percent for iron whereas the same amount of olive oil has no copper and 3.1 percent for iron.163 Whereas 100 grams of olive oil have 75.3 percent DV for vitamin K, as noted, the same quantity of olives has 1.8 percent.

The foregoing shows that olive oil’s strengths are vitamins E and K, though other options supply more of both for fewer calories. For example, Table 10.3 indicates that 100 grams of sunflower seeds furnish 35.17 milligrams (234.5 percent) of DV for vitamin E, roughly 2.5 times more than the same amount of olive oil.164 These seeds’ vitamin E is a bargain because by mass they have under two-thirds olive oil’s calories. Arithmetic demonstrates that calorie for calorie, sunflower seeds have almost four times more vitamin E than olive oil.

Vitamin K’s quantification reinforces this narrative. Table 10.4 reveals that by mass kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, and collard greens all surpass olive oil in vitamin K. For example, 100 grams of kale provide 817 micrograms of the vitamin, 1,021.3 percent DV.165 By mass, kale has over thirteen times more vitamin К than olive oil.166 Again appealing to arithmetic, by calorie, kale supplies 242.6 times more vitamin К than olive oil.167

TABLE 10.2

Nutrients in Olives and Olive Oil 100g

Nutrient

Olives

%DV

Olive Oil

%DV

Calories

105

N/A

884

N/A

Protein (g)

0.88

N/A

0

N/A

Fat (g)

9.54

N/A

100

N/A

Carbs (g)

6.06

N/A

0

N/A

Fiber(g)

3

N/A

0

N/A

Minerals

Ca (mg)

90

9

1

0.1

Fe (mg)

3.31

18.4

0.56

3.1

Mg (mg)

4

0.01

0

0

P (mg)

3

0.3

0

0

К (mg)

8

0.2

1

0.03

Na (mg)

735

30.6

2

0.08

Zn (mg)

0.22

1.5

0

0

Cu (mg)

0.24

12

0

0

Mn (mg)

0.02

1

0

0

Se (meg)

0.9

1.3

0

0

Vitamins

A (IU)

403

8.1

0

0

B, (mg)

<0.01

0.2

0

0

B, (mg)

0

0

0

0

B3 (mg)

0.03

0.2

0

0

B5 (mg)

0.01

0.1

0

0

B„ (mg)

0.01

0.5

0

0

B,(mcg)

0

0

0

0

В |2 (meg)

0

0

0

0

C (mg)

1.1

1.8

0

0

D (IU)

0

0

0

0

E (mg)

1.65

11

14.35

95.7

К (meg)

1.4

1.8

60.2

75.3

TABLE 10.3

Vitamin E (mg) in Selected Foods (100g)

Food (100 g)

Vitamin E (mg)

%DV

Sunflower seeds

35.17

234.5

Almonds

25.6

171

Avocado

2.1

14

Spinach

2.1

14

Kiwi

1.5

10

Broccoli

1.5

10

Trout

2.8

19

Shrimp

2.2

15

TABLE 10.4

Vitamin К (meg) in Selected Foods (lOOg)

Food (100g)

Vitamin К (meg)

%DV

Kale

817

1.021.3

Mustard greens

593

741.3

Swiss chard

830

1.037.5

Collard greens

407

508.8

Natto

1,103

1.378.8

Spinach

483

603.8

Broccoli

141

176.3

Brussel sprouts

140

175

Olive Oil and High Fat Diets

A diet laden with olive oil, or any caloric item, leaves little room for other foods just as athletes who command extravagant pay reduce the money that may be spent on the rest of the team in sports with a salary cap. An olive oil enthusiast, Simopoulos referenced research that participants who consumed 45 percent of calories from fat lost the same mass and more adipose than those who ingested 26 percent of calories from fat.168 Total calories were identical for both, but the implication is that diets should lavish rather than limit fat. Simopoulos’ results contradicted research, already mentioned, that correlated fat consumption and obesity and that documented body fat enlargement among people who reduced calories but increased fat intake.

Although Simopoulos disavowed “a high-fat diet,” her regimen is difficult to characterize otherwise given that the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, recommended fat intake between 20 and 35 percent of total calories.169 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, the USDA, and Laurence Eyres set 30 percent of calories from fat as the ceiling.170 As noted, Stanley Boyd Eaton and colleague cautioned against eating over 20 percent of calories from fat. The typical American gets roughly 34 percent of calories from fat, a total almost midway between Spain’s 30 percent from fat and Greece’s 40 percent.171 These percentages prompted Hoffman and Gerber to concede that “the traditional MedDiet is not a low fat diet.”172 Yet even these numbers trail Simopoulos’ 45 percent.

She counseled dieters to restrict calories to 1,200 or 1,500 per day.173 With 45 percent coming from olive oil—her favorite—or another fat, weight watchers have only between 660 and 825 calories to spare daily for all other foods. Many combinations of low-calorie items such as celery, lettuce, and kindred vegetables fit these parameters, allowing the consumption of salads with dressing for flavor and fat. Following this rationale, U.S. women consume dressing as their primary fat.174 The result is a meal with more calories and fat than had they eaten meat or dairy. Consequently, American women double men in obesity, an outcome contrary to belief that fatty diets promote weight loss.175

The issues of overweight and obesity aside, Simopoulos’ austerity allows only 660-825 calories, as noted, for nutrients besides fat. All cannot receive treatment, though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, reported in 2016 that many women ingest too little iodine, that over 30 percent of African Americans are deficient in vitamin D, and that more African American and Mexican American women under-consume iron than white women.176 Vitamin D may be obtained from sunlight, as mentioned elsewhere, and American anthropologist Susan Kent (1952-2003) judged iron deficiency uncommon in the developed world.177

This situation leaves iodine—whose content Table 10.5 lists for eight foods—as the test case. Governments worldwide urge adults to ingest 150 to 200 micrograms daily.178 Pregnant and lactat- ing women should exceed this range. The issue, therefore, is whether 660-825 calories allow intake

TABLE 10.5

Iodine (meg) in Selected Foods (100g)

Food (100g)

Iodine (meg)

%DV

Seaweed. Nori

1470

980

Cod

256

170.7

Shrimp

100

66.7

Eggs

50

33.3

Tuna, fresh

18

12

Haddock

325

216.7

Cheese

37.5

25

Salmon

14

9.3

of at least 150 micrograms of iodine daily, leaving aside pregnant and lactating women. This exercise is not abstract; in 2017, the WHO judged iodine intake insufficient for 2 billion of the world’s

7.6 billion people.179 Iodine deficiency, Chapter 13 notes, may cause goiter and mental impairment.

Iodine-rich foods include seaweed, seafood, eggs, dairy, lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus), and prunes. Plums also have iodine, though less per gram than prunes because of higher water content. Cod, tuna, and shrimp (species in the infraorder Caridea) are good choices among fish and shellfish. For example, 100 grams of cod supply on average 256 micrograms of iodine and 69 calories.180 That is, 40.4 calories of cod furnish the daily iodine minimum of 150 micrograms, leaving 619.6-784.6 calories for derivation of other nutrients. Simopoulos’ recommendations, therefore, permit adequate nutrition from diets with high fat but few total calories.

 
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