Inflammation is how the body reacts to injury and infection, but when it occurs chronically throughout the whole body, many researchers believe it may contribute to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune diseases, and some cancers. Conceivably, oleocanthal could help prevent or treat these conditions by counteracting the inflammation process.
Though clear answers are a long way off, inflammation fighting might be one more reason to favor olive oil over other fats. For the most oleocanthal, choose extra-virgin olive oils, says Monell sensory scientist Paul Breslin, Ph.D., another lead researcher on the study. “They are the first oil pressing of the pulped olive fruit, and so will contain the most chemicals.” Source matters too: Tuscan oils are highest in oleocanthal, while Sicilian, other Italian, Greek, Spanish, Portuguese and some California oils also rate highly. Heating and long storage destroy oleocanthal, so use olive oil within a year of buying (seek brands with dated labels), and add it to foods after cooking, if possible.