Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most health-promoting oils. It is a key ingredient of the
‘mediterranean diet’ and has many elements that researchers are discovering provide
excellent health benefits.
1. Protection against chronic degenerative disease
Research has shown that people who use olive oil regularly, especially in place of other
fats, have much lower rates of heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer
2. Polyphenols are responsible for olive oil’s benefits
The abundance of polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil, rather than its monounsaturated
fatty acids, are responsible for its cardiovascular benefits. Its rich supply of
polyphenols, which are known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticoagulant
actions, may also be central to emerging evidence that olive oil’s protective effects
extend to colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis (see later item).
3. Heart health
The heart health effects from extra virgin olive oil are due not only to its high content of
monounsaturated fats but also to its high concentration of antioxidants, including
chlorophyll, carotenoids and the polyphonic compounds tyrosol, hydrotyrosol and
oleuropein, all of which not only have free radical scavenging abilities but protect the
Vitamin E (alpha- tocopherol) also found in olive oil.
The FDA in the USA has accepted the research findings that extra virgin olive oil
prevents heart disease.
4. Lower blood pressure
The mediterranean diet, including its key components, olive oil, vegetables and fruit are
associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure. When the effects of
vegetable and olive oil were compared, olive oil gave the dominant beneficial effect on
5. Reduce breast cancer risk
Oleic acid, the primary monounsaturated fatty acid in olive oil, has been shown to
reduce the expression of Her-2/neu oncogene, which is associated with aggressive
growth of breast cancer tumours.
6. Better blood sugar control
Studies in diabetic patients have shown that healthy meals that contained some olive oil
had better effects on blood sugar, even better than healthy meals that were low in fat. It
prevents insulin resistance by raising HDL-cholesterol, lowering tryglycerides, and
ensuring better blood sugar level control and lower blood pressure. High triglyceride
levels occur in diabetic people which is a problem since the high levels also contribute
to the development of heart disease.
7. Anti-inflammatory benefits
Regular use of olive oil has been associated with lower rates of asthma and rheumatoid
arthritis as the monounsaturated fats in olive oil are used by the body to produce
substances which are relatively anti-inflammatory.
8. Reduces osteoporosis
Research has revealed that two olive oil polyphenols, oleuropin and hydroxytyrosol,
significantly reduce the inflammation-mediated bone loss involved in osteoporosis.
9. Protect DNA from free radical damage
The phenol content of olive oil is reduced when it is exposed to heat and light (and so it
should be stored in cool and opaque containers). The effect was observed in a study
where DNA experienced 30% less damage when high phenol content olive oil was
consumed compared to the consumption of lower phenol olive oil.
10. Further anti-inflammatory properties
Although its chemical structure is quite different from the anti-inflammatory compounds
in non-steroidal drugs such as Ibuprofen, olive oil contains an anti-inflammatory
component, known as ‘oleocanthal’, that has a similar effect. A 50 gram dose of extra
virgin olive oil supplies enough ‘ oleocanthal’ to produce an effect equivalent to that of
about 10% of the Ibuprofen dose recommended for adult pain relief.
11. Protection against colon cancer
While most other fats are associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, olive oil
provides a reduced risk of this cancer. Olive oil’s protective effect may be its ability to
reduce the amount of carcinogenic heterocyclic amines (HA’s) formed when meats are
cooked, such as the frying of hamburger patties.
(It was found that adding the rosemary herb to olive oil helped to maintain a higher level
of the HA protective effect over time).
In addition, the phenolic compounds in olive oil protect against several stages of colon
12. Reduction in ‘trans’ fats
Linked to benefit #11 is that olive oil takes much longer to convert to ‘trans’ fat in the
continued reheating of frying oil for ‘fast foods’ compared to other oils.
13. A fat that helps you to lose weight
Substituting olive oil for saturated fat in your diet can translate into a small but
significant loss of both body weight and fat mass without changing anything else about
your diet or increasing your physical activity.
14. Skin health
Japanese researchers have found that applying high quality olive oil to the skin after
sunbathing reduces the risk of developing skin tumours. The researchers found that
high-grade, virgin olive oil smeared on the skin delayed the appearance of tumours and
reduced their size and that it remediates dried and sunburnt skin.
Olive oil on the scalp will prevent head lice and dandruff.