Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Expert discusses benefits of olive oil

August 15, 2001

Got olive oil?

About 20 people at least got information on it Tuesday while listening to visiting scholar Apostolos Kiritsakis’ seminar about the oil’s benefits.

Kiritsakis, who has a doctorate in food science from MSU, talked about the history, processing, product quality, packaging and nutritional and health aspects of olive oil during “Olive Oil from Tree to Table,” at the School of Packaging.

Kiritsakis has been studying olive oil since 1972, and is currently working on an olive oil project in the school with Rueben Hernandez, a professor of food packaging. The project will focus on the volatile compounds of olive oil.

Kiritsakis said olive oil, which was discovered in his native island of Crete, Greece, was the first natural oil used by humans and said it has been known to exist for about 5,000 years.

Kiritsakis also said that according to Greek mythology, the city of Athens was given its name in honor of the goddess Athena, who brought the first olive tree to the city.

“Famous philosophers like Aristotle elevated olive tree cultivation into science,” Kiritsakis said. “Even the father of medicine, Hippocrates, demonstrated the benefits of olive oil long ago that were not confirmed until recently.”

He said an olive tree planted by Plato still exists in Athens today and some 800- to 900-year-old trees still produce the olive fruit in Crete.

Kristakis said the fruits have the power to heal.

“Not only does it have a better aroma than most other oils, it has less transferee acid than most oils, which means smaller cholesterol levels,” he said.

He also said the oil is the main constituent of the Mediterranean diet. The consumption of olive oil may be linked to high life-expectancy rates in Mediterranean countries, he said.

“Olive oil facilitates the secretion of the stomach and helps with the absorption of food,” Kiritsakis said. “It also helps prevent breast cancer in women, colon and intestine cancer, coronary heart disease, and prevents inflammation of the lungs by resisting oxidation and destroying cancerous cells.”

After sampling some olive oil cookies that were prepared by Kiritsakis’ wife, packaging graduate student Rafael Auras was quick to show his appreciation for the seminar.

“The seminar had a lot of general information that really helped me find out more about olive oil,” Auras said.

His sentiments were echoed by others.

“I’m a big fan of olive oil,” said Pantelis Trikalitis, a post-doctorate student in chemistry who was at the seminar.

“I use it for everything. The next time I go to the supermarket, I’ll be more aware of what type of olive oil I’m buying, and just how good the quality is. The seminar really opened my eyes about olive oil.”

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