The olive has been cultivated since Neolithic times – over 10,000 years ago – in ancient Greece and the Near East, and oil has been produced for over 8,000. Archaeological evidence from the Bronze Age shows olive oil production and storage in Crete from at least 3,500 BC, which is why it is the bedrock of the commonly known 'Mediterranean diet'.
Olive oil is not just used for eating, but also for soap, lamps and cosmetics, and as a cleaning agent, lubricant, moisturiser and massage oil. It is very high in mono-unsaturated fat and vitamin E, together with Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, iron and traces of vitamin K. The replacement of saturated with unsaturated fats is much more conducive to heart health and the prevention of cholesterol build-up.
Research into the health benefits of olive oil shows that mono-unsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, and may also influence blood sugar levels and insulin production, thus being of benefit in the treatment of diabetes.
One researcher found that an antioxidant phenolic compound in extra virgin olive oil called Oleocanthal had great significance for the future treatment of Alzheimer's and related neurodegenerative dementias.