Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Croatia have participated in the ARISTOIL project, which should contribute to strengthening the competitiveness of Mediterranean olive oils. The primary idea of the Aristoil project was to analyze oils from 5 Mediterranean countries in terms of phenol content and phenol composition, since phenols are considered to be major components of olive oil contributing to the health aspect. Back in 2012, the European Union recognized and recognized this health aspect in terms of prevention of vascular diseases, based on a series of scientific studies. She then set a minimum phenol concentration of 250 milligrams per kilogram of oil. The results of this project showed that Croatian oils have extremely high potential in this regard, even among all partner countries, we had the highest percentage of oils that met this legislation, said project coordinator prof. dr. Ph.D. Tea Bilusic from the Faculty of Chemistry and Technology, University of Split.
As much as 97 percent of Croatian oils have an increased proportion of phenols, with an average share of 655 milligrams per kilogram, of the minimum 250 prescribed by the EU. Spain has 95 percent of the oils that meet this requirement, and their average phenol content is lower – 521 mg / kg. Greek oils are at about 70 percent, Cypriot at 60 percent, and Italian at 55 percent, with their average phenol content significantly lower.
Over the three years, from 2016 to 2018, 4,000 samples were tested to see the phenol content and their compositions. Bilusic explains that phenols are a large group of compounds, some of them characteristic only of olives. One of the most interesting is the oleocantal, which is responsible for the spiciness of the oil, and it is an anti-inflammatory compound that is considered extremely valuable for chronic diseases. Yes, the EU has recognized olive oil as beneficial for the circulatory system, but Bilusic said that phenols also affect diabetes, rheumatoid and neurodegenerative diseases, cancers, aging, liver disease, epigenetic changes and the like.
– Olive oil is a functional food and we wanted to see if it was time to label such a product, not only as a nutritional product but also as a health one. This could be an avenue for olive growers, between the pharmaceutical and food industries, to market a product of greater market value, said Bilusic.
The advantage of our oils is that the oil is generally processed the same day, which is difficult to achieve, she said, if it is intensive production.
Olive growers from the Šolta Olive Growers Association GOLDEN ŠOLTANKA also participated in the project.
The results of the analyzes showed that Šoltan olive oil is at the top of the list of all participating countries in terms of phenol content: Average values are over 1,400 mg per kg of oil, and one oil contains as much as 1,900 mg!