15 Science-Based Health Benefits of Olive Oil

We have found countless scientific papers that have concluded that olive oil, particularly extra virgin, have numerous health benefits. Here are some of the potential health benefits:

  1. Olive Oil Helps Protect Cardiovascular Health

    American Heart Association recommends replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats which is abundant in extra virgin olive oil. A study that measured vascular function suggests replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat is better for the cardiovascular system. (Lipid Technology 2008; 20(11); doi 10.1002lite.200800067).

  2. Olive Oil Helps Lower Bad Cholesterol Levels

    There are two forms of cholesterol. One is healthy (HDL) and the other (LDL) is not so good for us. The job of the good cholesterol, HDL, is to pull out the LDL that builds up on blood vessel walls. Researchers concluded that in high cardiovascular-risk individuals, a diet higher in extra virgin olive oil showed the most improvement in HDL function.(Circulation 2017; 135:633-643; doi.org/10.1161/circulationaha.116.023712)

  3. Olive Oil Helps Prevent Plaque Buildup

    Atherosclerosisis an inflammatory disease of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque made primarily of fat, cholesterol, and calcium. Extra virgin olive oil contains numerous phenolic acids, flavonoids, and other compounds that contribute to circulatory health. Recent studies suggest that anti-inflammatory mechanisms of extra virgin olive oil phenols may help protect against plaque buildup. (Nutrients2017; 9(10), 1087; doi 10.3390/nu9101087)

  4. Olive Oil May Help Prevent Stroke

    People over the age of 65 may benefit from dietary recommendations that include extra virgin olive oil.  “Stroke is so common in older people and extra virgin olive oil would be an inexpensive and easy way to help prevent it," said the author of a study published in Neurology. This conclusion came after researching medical records of 7,625 people from three cities in France. Those who regularly used extra virgin olive oil had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who never used extra virgin olive oil.(Neurology, 2011; 77(5)418-25; doi10.1212/WNL.0b013e318220abeb)

  5. Olive Oil May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

    Studies indicate extra-virgin extra virgin olive oil consumption protects memory and learning ability.  Researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University found a significant reduction in the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, classic markers of Alzheimer’s disease, when mice were given extra-virgin extra virgin olive oil enriched diets. Synaptic integrity was well preserved. (Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, 2017; doi 10.1002/acn3.431)

  6. Olive Oil May Help in Offsetting Depression

    Dietary intervention, specifically with the inclusion of extra virgin olive oil in the diet, may offset depression. That’s the conclusion of Australian researchers who studied subjects over a 12-week period. Several groups were tested in a blind, randomized controlled trial. Those who received dietary support demonstrated significantly greater improvement than the social support group. (BMC Medicine 2017; 15(1) 23; doi 10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y)

  7. Olive Oil Helps in Brain Health

    Monounsaturated fatty acids in extra virgin olive oil are linked to attention and general intelligence, according to a recent study.  Scientists focused on nutrients known to impact the metabolic processes that drive brain function. The results suggest a connection between nutritional status and functional network efficiency with a finding that high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids are associated with superior general intelligence. (NeuroImage 2017; (161): 241-250; doi 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.08.043)

  8. Olive Oil Helps Control Blood Sugar

    Following a 2016 study, the American Diabetes Association recommends the use of extra virgin olive oil to control blood sugar levels. The scientists strove to evaluate whether fat quality, in the context of meals with high or low–glycemic index, influences the postprandial blood glucose response in patients with type 1 diabetes. The effects of extra virgin olive oil consumption in high-glycemic meals were the most dramatic. Blood glucose was lower after consumption of extra-virgin extra virgin olive oil than after a similar low fat meal or a meal with butter.  (Diabetes Care 2016; 39(4): 518-524; doi 10.2337/dc15-2189)

  9. Olive Oil Helps in Weight Management

    Researchers in Spain tested the hypothesis that the incidence of obesity in the population is associated with the type of fatty acids in the diet. Those who consumed sunflower oil had higher rates of obesity.Persons who consumed extra virgin olive oil had a lower risk of being obese at follow-upSerum phospholipid testing revealed a greater proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids in the extra virgin olive oil group. It’s believed these monounsaturated fatty acids could increase satiety and a sense of fullness as well as affecting body weight.   (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009; 63(11): 1371–1374; doi 10.1038/ejcn.2009.65)

  10. Olive Oil Helps Protect the Immune system

    Immune functions protect us against viruses and bacteria. Extra virgin olive oil, in addition to being rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, contains oleic acid, a fatty acid that plays a crucial role in immune action. Research continues to study the mechanisms in the modulation of the immune system by extra virgin olive oil, the action of oleic acid, and other components in olive oil. (Grasas y Aceites 2004 55 (1): 42-51)

  11. Olive Oil Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

    Extra virgin olive oil contains more than 36 phenolic compounds which act as anti-inflammatory agents. One in particular, oleocanthal, present in extra-virgin extra virgin olive oil, possesses similar anti-inflammatory properties to ibuprofen. (Curr Pharm Des. 2011; 17(8): 754-68.)

  12. Olive Oil Helps in Liver Cleansing

    Hydroxytyrosol, a polyphenol in extra virgin olive oil, is shown to reverse the adverse health effects of a high fat diet in a study conducted by scientists from the University of Chile (Lipids Health Dis. 2017; 16: 64; doi.org/10.1186/s12944-017-0450-5). Nutrition and Metabolism reports similar good news. Researchers in Saudi Arabia discovered that mice that were exposed to a toxic herbicide showed some protection from liver damage when fed a diet containing extra virgin olive oil. (Nutrition & Metabolism 2010; 7:80; doi 10.1186/1743-7075-7-80)

  13. Olive Oil May Help Prevent Pancreatitis

    Spanish scientists have discovered the anti-inflammatory effect of oleic acid and hydroxytyrosol (found in extra virgin olive oil) offers protection against the cellular mechanisms involved in the development of the disorder. When healthy, enzymes in the pancreas don’t become active until they reach the small intestine as part of the digestive process. In pancreatitis, the enzymes become active before they leave the pancreas and attack the healthy tissue. Extra virgin olive oil may be essential to preventing acute pancreatitis in those who may be susceptible due to gender (more men than women are affected) or by dietary triggers such as alcohol or fatty foods.  (Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2011)  

  14. Olive Oil May Help Prevent Osteoporosis

    Extra virgin olive oil is a powerful intervention to preserve bone health and prevent skeletal degeneration especially among the elderly, researchers conclude. Increased bone formation and retention of bone mineral density are likely due to suppressed oxidative stress and anti-inflammation from extra virgin olive oil phenols.(Int J Environ Res Public Health 2016; 13(8): 755; doi 10.3390/ijerph13080755)

  15. Olive Oil May Help Prevent Cancer

    Those who follow a Mediterranean diet, rich in extra virgin olive oil, have lower incidences of cancer. Numerous studies focus on the role of extra virgin olive oil in cancer prevention. Extra virgin olive oil contains powerful antioxidants including hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, oleocanthal, secoiridoids, and lignans.Other compounds are biological anti-cancer agents, such as squalene and terpenoids.  (Eur J Cancer Prev 2004; 13(4):319-26, Molecular & Cellular Oncology 2015; 2(1) , Carcinogenesis  2018; 39(4))

While all olive oil is a healthier choice than many other oils, to get the maximum benefits purchase high quality, extra virgin olive oil. The difference between extra virgin olive oil and a product simply labeled virgin olive oil or refined olive oil goes beyond flavor. Extra virgin olive oil is the purest oil available. It’s simply made by mechanically pressing fresh olives. No solvents are used, so the oil is in its most natural state with all of the health-boosting antioxidants, phenols, flavonoids, and biochemical compounds that are naturally present in olives.

This content is not intended to provide or constitute as medical advice. To seek medical advice, consult a licensed medical professional.