A recent study announced by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries will focus on the apparent health benefits of using olive oil to fry food. For some time, debate has raged over the health benefits of using olive oil for frying purposes, with many critics claiming that a ‘smoke point’ often results in unsafe consumption. The new research will seek to examine the validity of these claims and more carefully scrutinise those of producers.
In the past, olive oil has been reaffirmed as the frying oil of choice for the health conscious. Several high profile studies have linked olive oil with cardiovascular health, as it contains high levels of oleic acid and polyphenols (natural organic chemicals). Olive oil is said to promote HDL health, a key factor in battling high cholesterol. Studies have also suggested that olive oil can help assist the body in the natural process of removing plaque from blood vessels and reduce the likelihood of rheumatoid arthritis.
According to critics of olive oil, the ‘smoke point’ of oil often renders the health benefits null and void. Effectively, by over-heating the oil, consumers are potentially exposing themselves to an unsafe substance. The new government-sanctioned study will address these and other issues head-on.
Edible oil chemist Jamie Ayton spoke with the ABC about the uncertainty of safety standards and the flow-on effects for producers and consumers. “Smoke produces bi-products that aren’t very good for you nutritionally so we want to make sure we aren’t heating oil so much that it starts to smoke,” he explained. “You get both sides of the story, some people are saying ‘no it’s fine to use it, use it all the time it’s wonderful’. Other people are saying ‘never use it it’s horrible stuff’.”
The new research will address the information-gap in a straightforward way, with Mr. Ayton expressing his belief the study could result in a new regulatory regime for oil-safety standards. “All of the evidence is anecdotal, there’s no scientific evidence, so that’s where we think by doing this study using international standards any differences we see will be based on pure data and not just what people think.”
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