THE OLIVE: A HEALTH-GIVING PLANT
One of the foods to which attention is drawn in the Qur'an is the
olive. Research in recent years has revealed that the olive is not
just a delicious food but also represents an important source of
good health. In addition to the olive itself, olive oil is also
an important source of nutrition. Attention is drawn to the oil
of the olive tree in these terms in the Qur'an:
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.
The metaphor of His Light is that of a niche in which is a lamp,
the lamp inside a glass, the glass like a brilliant star, lit
from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor
of the west, its oil all but giving off light even if
no fire touches it. Light upon Light. Allah guides to His Light
whoever He wills and Allah makes metaphors for mankind and Allah
has knowledge of all things. (Qur'an, 24:35)
The expression "mubarakatin zaytoonatin" in the above
verse describes the olive as being "plentiful, sacred, auspicious,
providing countless blessings." Olive oil, referred to in the term
"zaytuha," is known as one of the most highly recommended types
of oil by all experts, especially for coronary and arterial health.
Its health benefits may be summarised as follows:
Benefits for Coronary and Arterial Health:
Most of the fatty acids in olives and olive oil
are mono-unsaturated. Mono-unsaturated fatty acids do not contain
cholesterol. Therefore, olive oil does not raise cholesterol levels
but instead keeps them under control. Olive oil also contains omega-6
linoleic acid (EFA: essential fatty acid), which is essential for
the human body. Due to this feature, health-related bodies (such
as The World Health Organization) recommend that at least 30% of
the fatty acid consumed in societies in which hardened artery and
diabetes levels are high should consist of omega-6. This increases
the importance of the olive still further.127
And by it He makes crops
grow for you and olives and dates and grapes and fruit of
every kind. There is certainly a Sign in that
for people who reflect.
Studies in this area have revealed
much lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and higher antioxidant levels in
people who consume 25 millilitres (about two dessertspoonfuls) of
natural olive oil a day for one week.128
Antioxidants are important as they neutralise the harmful substances
in the body known as free radicals and prevent cell damage. It has
also been established in a great many studies that the consumption
of olive oil reduces cholesterol levels and prevents heart disease.129
Olive oil is also recommended for patients with
heart and artery disease since it reduces the level of harmful cholesterol
(LDL) in the bloodstream and raises that of useful cholesterol (HDL).130
In countries with high occurrences of heart and artery diseases,
saturated fats with high cholesterol content are generally consumed.
In addition, olive oil does
not disrupt the proportion of omega-6 to that of omega-3. It is
very important that omega-3 and omega-6 be present in the body at
specific levels because any imbalance in these proportions can lead
to progression in many diseases, especially those of the heart and
immune system and cancer.131
For all these reasons, many people enjoy good health thanks to olive
oil. The American Heart Association suggests that in order to reduce
the risk of heart disease high mono-unsaturated fats can be an alternative
to a 30% reduced fat diet.132
One study, published by The Archives of Internal
Medicine, showed that women who consume high levels of mono-unsaturated
fat have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.133
Another study by scientists at the University at Buffalo, The State
University of New York demonstrated that b-sitosterol, a fat found
in vegetable oils such as olive oil, helps prevent the formation
of prostate cancer cells. The researchers concluded that b-sitosterol
strengthens the internal communication system of the cell that issues
the command for the cells to divide and that cancer can thus be
prevented before cell division reaches an uncontrollable level.
A recent study by doctors at the University of
Oxford has shown that olive oil has a protective effect against
intestinal cancer. The doctors discovered that olive oil enters
into a reaction with stomach acid in order to prevent intestinal
cancer from beginning. At the same time, the University of Oxford
researchers also established that olive oil reduces the level of
bile and raises that of DAO (the enzyme diamine oxidase), thus protecting
against abnormal cell growth and cancer.134
Prevention of Arthritis
According to researchers' reports, people who consume large quantities
of olive oil and cooked vegetables can have a reduced risk of rheumatic
arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints.
Olive Oil Assists Bone Development
The vitamins E, A, D and K contained in olive
oil are particularly important from the point of view of assisting
bone development in adults and children, and in strengthening the
bones by fixing calcium. It is also recommended for the elderly
as it is easily digested and through its minerals, it assists with
the use of vitamins in the body. It also prevents calcium loss by
stimulating bone mineralisation.135
Bones are the organism's mineral structure storehouses and an absence
of mineral accumulation in the bones can lead to serious complications
such as bone softening. Olive oil has a most beneficial effect on
the skeleton in this regard.
Prevention of Aging
Since the vitamins contained in olive oil have a cell renewing
effect they are also employed in the treatment of the elderly, as
well as nourishing and protecting the skin. As foodstuffs are transformed
into energy in our bodies, certain substances known as oxidants
are formed. With the high levels of anti-oxidants it contains, olive
oil prevents damage by harmful substances, renews our cells and
delays aging in the tissues and organs. Olive oil is also rich in
vitamin E, which suppresses the free radicals that destroy the cells
in our bodies and cause aging.
Contribution to Child Development
to the linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) contained in olives and
olive oil, these are a most healthy food for newborn babies and
growing children. A deficiency in linoleic acid leads to the emergence
of a retardation of development in babyhood and various skin disorders.
Olive oil contains anti-oxidant elements that prevent the destructive
effects of harmful substances in our bodies, and fatty acids of
great importance to human health. These support the hormones and
assist in cell membrane formation.
Olive oil possesses a balanced polyunsaturated compound at a similar
level to that in human milk. Olive oil is a sufficient source of
these fatty acids, which cannot be obtained from the human body
but which are of the most essential importance to it. These factors
make olive oil very important for new-born babies.
Since it contributes to the natural development of the baby's brain
and nervous system before and after birth, olive oil is the only
oil recommended for mothers by experts. As well as containing similar
levels of linoleic acid to those of mother's milk, when olive oil
is added to fatless cow's milk, it becomes as natural a food source
as mother's milk itself.
Blood Pressure Reduction
One study published in the 27 March 2000 edition of Archives of
Internal Medicine once more stressed the beneficial effect of olive
oil on high blood pressure. Medicines to reduce high blood pressure
are also made from olive leaves.
Benefits for the Internal Organs
consumed hot or cold, olive oil protects the stomach against diseases
such as gastritis and ulcers by reducing gastric acid levels.136
In addition to this, by activating the bile, it makes it perfect.
It regulates the discharge of the gall bladder and reduces the risk
of bile stone formation.137
Moreover, thanks to the chloride it contains, it also assists the
functioning of the liver and thus helps the body eliminate waste
products. In addition, it also has a beneficial effect on the brain
On account of all these properties, olive oil
has attracted considerable expert attention in recent years.139
Some of the comments made by experts are as follows:
Jean Carper, a prominent authority in the field of health and nutrition,
the CNN award-winning correspondent, columnist and author of The
Food Pharmacy and Food-Your Miracle Medicine:
New Italian research finds olive oil contains antioxidants...
that combat disease processes, including LDL cholesterol's ability
to clog arteries.
Pat Baird, a dietician and nutrition consultant:
I love the whole idea of olive oil's versatility... the more
we know about it, the more we learn about its great contribution
to good health.
Dr. Dimitrios Trichopoulos, chairman of the Department of Epidemiology,
Harvard University School of Public Health:
American women might actually experience as much as a fifty percent
(50%) reduction in breast cancer risk if they consumed more olive
oil in place of saturated fats.
Olive oil has a protective effect against some types of malignant
tumors: prostate, breast, colon, squamous cell, and oesophageal.
D. Peck of the School of Medicine, University of Miami:
Olive oil has been shown to strengthen the immune system in
Berra of the Institute of General Physiology and Biological Chemistry,
University of Milan:
[T]he minor polar components of extra virgin olive oil increase
significantly the resistance of LDL to oxidation.
A.A. Rivellese, G. Riccardi and M. Mancini of the Institute of
Internal Medicine and Metabolic Diseases at Federico II University,
Olive oil prevents insulin resistance and ensures better control
of the glucose in the blood.
Patrizia Galletti of the Second University of Naples, Faculty of
Medicine and Surgery:
Dietary intake of olive oil polyphenols may lower the risk of reactive
oxygen metabolite-mediated diseases such as some gastrointestinal
diseases and atherosclerosis. Olive oil hydroxytyrosol protects
human erythrocytes against oxidative damage.
Frank Sacks of the Harvard School of Public Health:
An olive-oil-rich diet is more effective than a low-fat diet
in controlling and treating obesity. Moreover, it leads to longer-lasting
weight loss and it is easier to keep to
As we have seen, a great many scientists today think that an olive
oil-based diet constitutes the ideal nutritional model. It is stated
that on account of these properties, olives and olive oil should
be the fundamental constituents of every meal in one's daily nutrition
programme. The benefits of the olive plant, emphasised by Allah
in many verses of the Qur'an, have been discovered in parallel to
the advances made by medical science.
It is He Who sends down water from the sky. From
it you drink and from it come the shrubs among which you graze
your herds. And by it He makes crops grow for you and olives and
dates and grapes and fruit of every kind. There is certainly a
Sign in that for people who reflect. (Qur'an, 16:10-11)
127. Scientific Encyclopedia,
128. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2002, 56: 114-120.
129. Archives of Internal Medicine 1998; 158: 1181-1187.
130. Keys A, Menotti A, Karvonen MJ et al., “The diet and
15-year death rate in the Seven Countries Study,” Am J Epidemiol
124: 903-915 (1986); Willett WC, “Diet and coronary heart
disease,” Monographs in Epidemiology and Biostatistics 15:
341-379 (1990); World Health Organization, “Diet, nutrition,
and the prevention of chronic diseases,” Report of a WHO Study
Group. WHO Technical Report Series 797, Geneva 1990.
132. Journal of the American Heart Association, September 1999.
133. Archives of Internal Medicine 1998; 158: 41-45.
134. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999; 70: 1077-1082.
136. Muammer Kayahan, "Saglikli Yasam ve Zeytinyagi,"
(Healthy Life and Olive Oil) Bilim Teknik Dergisi (Journal of Science
and Technology), April 1995, 48.
139. The Olive Tree World, www.olivetree.eat-online.net/framehealth.htm.