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Olive oil and pizza:

MagazineMay 1990 (Vol. 1 Issue 2)Olive oil and pizza:

If food is our medicine, scientists are beginning to understand why

If food is our medicine, scientists are beginning to understand why. They have started to uncover the secrets of the famed Mediterranean diet and its protective qualities against cancer, and especially breast cancer.
The key seems to be the olive oil dressing, which is rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. In laboratory experiments scientists have discovered that oleic acid can dramatically reduce breast cancer cells, and in some tests eliminated 46 per cent of the cancer cells.
The scientists believe that oleic acid does not just protect against breast cancer, it can also prolong the lives of those with the cancer. Lead researcher Dr Javier Menendez of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University believes that oleic acid can also protect against heart disease and is an anti-ageing agent.
The key is to use extra virgin olive oil as a cold dressing on salads or vegetables. It loses its protective qualities when it's used to cook food.
Extra virgin olive oil isn't the only food that's good for our health. Step forward the humble pizza as a protector against heart attacks. People who regularly eat 'Italian pizza' halved their risk of an acute myocardial infarction, or heart attack, compared with those who ate pizza only occasionally. Even those who eat four portions or less a month still gained some protection.
The discovery was made by doctors at a Milan hospital who analysed the eating habits of 507 patients who had suffered their first heart attack, and compared them with 478 patients who had been admitted with other health problems.
Those who were 'frequent' eaters of pizza - defined as eating two or more 200 g portions of pizza a week - had the greatest protection, and compared with 'regular' consumers, who ate more than one a week, while the ones who had the least protection ate just one to three portions a month.
The doctors emphasise that the patients were eating pizzas from traditional pizzerias in Italian, where the quality of the ingredients is presumably higher. This may also explain the 'Clinton effect'. Former US president Bill Clinton is an avowed pizza eater, but he still recently underwent a quadruple coronary by-pass, so presumably the standard fast-food pizza isn't going to do the job.
Interestingly, the findings of the Milan study mirror earlier studies that found that tomatoes and tomato paste, which happen to be the most common ingredients in pizzas, had protective qualities against heart disease.
So what's the ideal meal? Why, fresh tomatoes swimming in cold extra virgin olive oil dressing, of course.

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