European Federation for the Science and 
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The olive tree has been linked to culture since pre-historic times. It was worshipped as sacred and its oil was used in the production of perfumes and medicines; moreover, in daily life the oil served as a basic product in diet, lighting and heating. Today, olive oil is the principal source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, the paradigm of a healthy but also appetizing diet.

The combination of culture and health explains that an oil of less than 3 % of total edible oil production in the world represents now stunning 16% of world trade with edible oils. This success is not only the consequence of inborn characteristics of olive oil, but also of research and development carried out by eminent and internationally renowned professionals active in science and technology pertaining to this oil.

But with ever progressing globalisation, further advancement of olive oil science and technology requires interdisciplinary forums that bring together professionals from academia, industry and governmental institutions world-wide. With this objective in mind, the Division on Olive Oil was founded on 4th October 2006 at the 4th Euro Fed Lipid Congress in Madrid , I am pleased to say. The division intends to address research and development of safer, healthier and higher quality olive oil, combined with social and economic challenges by international collaboration of all stakeholders concerned.

The ample participation of professionals in a recent survey, supported by Euro Fed Lipid, allowed determining the topics around which activities of the division should be organised; they are Technology and Chemistry, Quality, Health and Nutrition, Safety and Commerce. These core topics depict the interests of professionals and they offer integration to face up to current and future challenges. These integrative aspects form three areas.

The technological challenges are centred on improving olive oil quality by means of more efficient malaxation and centrifugation processes and, concomitantly, reducing dependence on energy sources. In addition, search of market niches for industrial by-products and prediction of olive oil sensory quality before olive are getting more and more demanded by producers. Their income would benefit from both, new industrial by-products as well as higher sensory quality of the olive oil.

The large armoury of analytical methods that can be used in olive oil authentication has not stopped the search of rapid, non-destructive and, if possible, indubitable methods. The current challenges are, on the one hand, validation of DNA-based techniques with refined oils and, on the other hand, the design of efficient pattern recognition algorithms for spectroscopic techniques. In this context, it is inevitable to aim for transnational olive oil traceability by creating a Mediterranean Olive Oil Map (physico-chemical database). This represents a key challenge for the Division.

To link food sensory analysis to instrumental data is still a challenge for researchers who want to explain consumers’ subjective opinions and attitudes from chemical and sensory information. This objective might be attained by giving attention to the development of rapid methods based on physical techniques, to the role of the enzymes responsible for olive oil flavour, or to the use of molecular biology for improvement of olive oil quality, among other approaches.    

The health and nutrition benefits of consuming olive oil are undeniable. Thus, it is time to deepen understanding of cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the interaction between postprandial lipoproteins and cells; this could clarify the role of olive oil in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, for example. It could also contribute to new dietary strategies for patients after major surgery, or having infectious diseases and cognitive decline. Olive oil is, however, more than oleic acid, and research should elucidate possible benefits of particular minor compounds in respond to specific needs, e.g. antimicrobial activity and anti-inflammatory action.

The implementation of these three topics will be carried out through the Division by fostering activities in continuing education, communication and research. The first activity will be centred on courses, workshops and meetings, while the second is considered to be the nexus between research groups, olive oil institutions and industrial associations all over the world. Obviously, the third activity will be focused on international research programmes. With the 7th European framework programme taking off, the Division will be an excellent forum for those who need information, to form a consortium, or want to coordinate projects with the Division’s support. 

Dear lipid scientist, the Euro Fed Lipid Division on Olive Oil is a neutral forum that wants to accomplish the goal described in its motto “Always Close To You”. 

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