Olives and Health

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Professor, Consultant Pathologist, American Board Certified Pathologist, Fellow College of American Pathologists. Areas of interest Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology, Cytology, Cancer, Ethics, Islam, Humanity

Olives and Health

Nighat Akbar and Nighat Bilal
Postgraduate Trainee (Dermatology), PIMS, Islamabad
Professor of General Medicine, PIMS, Islamabad

From ancient ages of hunter gatherers to the
modern times of urban man, diet has been integral to
the human existence. Over time, food preferences and
eating habits have evolved into different patterns,
reflecting the diverse human experiences of present
and passing cultures. These changing complex dietary
patterns have major impact on health and disease (1)
playing an important role in our life.
The olive tree is among the oldest known
cultivated trees in the world (4). It is native to the
Mediterranean region, tropical and central Asia and
various parts of Africa. Archaeological evidence
suggests that olives were being grown in Crete as long
ago as 2,500 BC. It is an evergreen tree reaching upto
the heights of 50 ft with a girth of about 30 ft and a life
expectancy of 500 years. The olives’ feather shaped
leaves grow opposite to one another. They are rich in
tannin giving the mature leaf its gray-green colour
replacing every 2 or 3 years. The cultivars vary
considerably in size, shape, oil content and flavour.
The trees reach bearing age in about 4 years. All fresh
olives are very bitter because of an acrid bitter tasting
compound, oleuropin, present in olive skin. The
flavour of each variety of olives depends upon its
ripeness, where it is grown and the type of processing
it undergoes.


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