The Mediterranean Pyramid, represents the optimal, traditional Mediterranean diet, based on the dietary traditions of Crete and southern Italy in the 1960s. The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid underlines the importance of the foods, making up the principal food groups. Each of these groups offers some, but not all, of the nutrients one needs. All the groups are necessary for a healthy diet. Olive oil is one of the basic products of the Mediterranean diet, together with grains, fruit and vegetables, legumes and nuts, diary products and fish.


Cardiovascular diseases are the top cause of death in the industrialised world. A host of studies have documented that arteriosclerosis is closely linked to eating habits, lifestyle and some aspects of economic development. The progression of arteriosclerosis depends on many factors: the most important ones are high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and cigarette smoking. Olive oil lowers the levels of total blood cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol (low density lipoproteins ) or "bad cholesterol" and triglycerides. At the same time it does not alter the levels of HDL-cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins) or "good cholesterol" and may even raise them. This last one plays a protective role and prevents the formation of fatty patches, thus stimulating the elimination of bad cholesterol.


Olive oil is rich in various antioxidants (vitamin E, polyphenols, ) which play an important role in eliminating free radicals, the molecules involved in some chronic diseases and ageing, and in extending life expectancy, which has been demonstrated in several studies. The phenolic content of olive oils varies according to the climatic conditions in the producing area, when the olives are harvested and how ripe they are when picked. Oil production and storage methods also have an influence.