• A new study has found that the fat in olive oil appears to activate pathways in cells that are linked to longer life span.
  • Olive oil is a type of fat that is common in the Mediterranean diet, which was ranked the best diet of 2019 by US News & World Report.
  • The study’s researchers said olive-oil fats are stored in the body and released when we exercise, triggering the benefits.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A new study suggests olive oil could be integral to the Mediterranean diet’s brilliance.

The diet, which US News & World Report ranked the best diet of 2019, has been linked to good health and longer lives.

According to new research by the University of Minnesota Medical School, olive oil alone, a staple ingredient of the diet, appears to have properties that promote longevity and decrease the risk of age-related disease like diabetes and heart disease.

Doug Mashek, the lead researcher, said that studying the way olive oil affected human cells in petri dishes indicated that the fats in olive oil activated cell pathways in the body that are linked to longer life.

“We found that the way this fat works is it first has to get stored in microscopic things called lipid droplets, which is how our cells store fat,” Mashek said in a press release. “And then, when the fat is broken down during exercising or fasting, for example, is when the signaling and beneficial effects are realized.”

The Mediterranean diet is high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in red meat and sugar

Mediterranean diet

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Foto: Foods including whole-grain pita bread, fresh fruit, salads, nuts, beans, olive oil, and salmon are Mediterranean diet staples.sourceAnna Kurzaeva/Getty Images

This isn’t the first time the Mediterranean diet has been found beneficial for long-term health.

The concept of the Mediterranean diet comes from the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, where people historically ate mainly vegetables, oily fish, nuts, and healthy fats. The Harvard School of Public Health and a think tank called Oldways created a diet based on the general eating principles of these places, according to US News.

Unlike highly restrictive diets like the keto diet or the Atkins diet, the Mediterranean diet allows people to eat a wide variety of foods in moderation. In fact, the diet is safe for most people, including children and older people.

Foods including whole-grain pita bread, fresh fruit, salads, nuts, beans, olive oil, and salmon are Mediterranean diet staples and promote a variety of health benefits.

The diet could help with weight loss, heart health, and diabetes prevention

When people fill their diets with the fresh, unprocessed foods found in the Mediterranean diet, they may lose weight, improve their heart health, and prevent diabetes, according to US News.

Since the diet focuses on heart-healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and salmon, it also could lower bad cholesterol, a major cause of heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. “The Mediterranean diet discourages saturated fats and hydrogenated oils (trans fats), both of which contribute to heart disease,” the Mayo Clinic said on its website.

The diet could also help prevent cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as well as breast cancer.