The Olivino™ Story
My passion for healthy eating and exercise started in early childhood. My sister Carole was forever counting carbs and calories to lose weight and my brother Les was an elite athlete known for his state and national powerlifting records. The influence of these older siblings largely guided my decision to pursue an academic career in nutrition.
That career began at Michigan State University (MSU) where, as a nutrition undergraduate, I began a work-study position washing glassware in a diet and cancer research laboratory. The lab was investigating how cabbage could prevent colon cancer. Diet and cancer were very personal to me. Several uncles had died of colon cancer, my sister was a cancer survivor, and my father died of cancer before I graduated from MSU.
My dishwashing duties quickly expanded to include assisting with research projects, and, when I graduated, I was the laboratory technician. A master’s degree at Penn State and dual Ph.D. in Human Nutrition/Environmental Toxicology at MSU followed, opening the door to a two-year Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.
During my post-Doctoral training, the NCI announced a commitment of $20 million for research on the role of plant foods in cancer prevention. To compete for funding, the University of Illinois (UI) announced it was launching a new initiative on “functional foods.” The Functional Foods for Health Program would coordinate the research efforts of dozens of professors across the Chicago and Urbana-Champaign campuses. In 1992, I was hired as the Founding Executive Director.
For the next 11 years, I spoke to audiences around the world about the importance of functional foods in health and well-being, served on numerous scientific advisory boards, engaged with regulatory agencies, and wrote policy papers on the topic for several national organizations.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS
In 2004, I was appointed Founding Executive Director of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine & Food Science at the University of California (UC), Davis. Located in the heart of the Central Valley, UC Davis sits in the middle of one of the world’s most productive regions for agriculture—particularly olives, grapes, and tomatoes—three key fruits in the Mediterranean Diet (MDiet).
Thus, the seed for Olivino™ was “planted.”
OLIVINO™ IS CREATED
In 2010, that seed took root because three key factors aligned:
1. My role at UC Davis. The Institute houses the Departments of Viticulture & Enology and Food Science & Technology—world leaders in grape growing/wine making and tomato processing, respectively.
2. In 2008, I had launched the Institute’s Olive Center—it was becoming globally recognized as the leading academic Center of Excellence on olive research, education, and outreach.
3. The MDiet was identified for the first time by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as the ideal way to eat to achieve optimal health and wellness. However, most people in the U.S. didn’t eat that diet. They still don’t.
My husband and business partner, Cameron Lewis, wanted to make getting the health benefits of the 3 key fruits of the MDiet, olives, grapes, and tomatoes, convenient.
- Promotes cardiovascular health
- Helps maintain healthy blood pressure
- Fights inflammation
- Protects against free radicals that can damage skin
- Helps maintain healthy blood sugar level
- Promotes healthy prostate function