The Mediterranean diet has long been touted as having numerous health benefits, which have been attributed to its high levels of fresh fish, fruit, legumes and olive oil. According to a new study, however, it may be the olive oil, more than the other ingredients, which is the key to its respected dietary credentials.

Researchers from the University of Cordoba in Spain have suggested that the heart benefits of the diet may be due to phenol compounds in virgin olive oil which repress genes that promote inflammation.

A team led by Francisco Perez-Jimenez of the University of Cordoba researched how diets rich in phenol compounds such as olive oil affected the gene function in 20 study subjects with metabolic syndrome, a combination of medical disorders which put people at risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Commenting on the study, Perez-Jimenez said, ‘These findings strengthen the relationship between inflammation, obesity and diet and provide evidence at the most basic level of healthy effects derived from virgin olive oil consumption in humans’.

Source: BMC Genomics