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The Science Behind Olive Oil's Top 10 Health Benefits



For millennia, the olive tree has been revered as a symbol of wisdom, peace, and longevity. Modern science now reveals that its precious oil may hold the key to unlocking vibrant health and preventing chronic disease. Dive in to discover the evidence-based secrets of this liquid gold


Olive oil, the liquid gold of the Mediterranean, has been prized for its culinary and medicinal properties for thousands of years. Recent scientific research has begun to unravel the complex mechanisms behind its remarkable health effects. This comprehensive guide delves into the top 10 science-backed benefits of olive oil consumption, exploring the intricate ways in which its bioactive compounds interact with the body. We'll also examine the crucial differences between high-quality, organic, cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and refined, chemically processed varieties.


GreenMedInfo, a leading open-access database for natural medicine, has compiled an extensive body of research on olive oil's therapeutic potential. Their database reveals that olive oil may have beneficial effects in over 180 health conditions and exerts 69 distinct pharmacological actions.21 This underscores the incredible versatility and potency of this ancient healing food.


  1. Cardiovascular Protection Numerous studies have highlighted olive oil's cardioprotective properties. A meta-analysis of cohort studies found that higher olive oil intake was associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular events and mortality.1 EVOO's high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyphenols is thought to underlie these effects. MUFAs help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, while polyphenols like hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein possess potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities that protect against atherosclerosis.2

  2. Stroke Prevention A study published in Neurology revealed that older individuals who regularly used olive oil for both cooking and as a dressing had a 41% lower risk of stroke compared to non-users.3 While the exact mechanisms require further elucidation, researchers speculate that olive oil's anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic effects may play a role in reducing stroke risk.4

  3. Blood Pressure Regulation EVOO's rich polyphenol content has been shown to help lower blood pressure. A randomized controlled trial found that consuming polyphenol-rich olive oil significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to low-polyphenol olive oil.5 Polyphenols may exert these effects by increasing the bioavailability of nitric oxide, a vasodilator that helps relax blood vessels.6

  4. Antidiabetic Effects Growing evidence suggests that olive oil may help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes. A systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that olive oil consumption was associated with a 16% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.7 EVOO's beneficial effects on glucose metabolism are attributed to its MUFAs and polyphenols, which improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.8

  5. Neuroprotection Olive oil's neuroprotective properties have garnered increasing attention in recent years. Animal studies have demonstrated that EVOO can mitigate age-related cognitive decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.9 These effects are linked to its high content of oleocanthal, a phenolic compound that exhibits anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities in the brain.10

  6. Anticancer Potential Numerous in vitro and animal studies have highlighted olive oil's potential anticancer effects. For instance, the phenolic compound oleocanthal has been shown to induce rapid death in various cancer cell lines while leaving healthy cells unharmed.11 Other olive oil polyphenols, such as hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein, have demonstrated antiproliferative and proapoptotic activities against breast, colon, and prostate cancer cells.12

  7. Anti-inflammatory Effects EVOO's potent anti-inflammatory properties are well-documented. Its polyphenols, particularly oleocanthal, inhibit the activity of cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, which are involved in the production of pro-inflammatory compounds.13 Regular consumption of EVOO has been associated with reduced levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein and interleukin-6.14

  8. Digestive Health Olive oil may benefit digestive health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in the gut. A study in patients with ulcerative colitis found that a diet rich in olive oil was associated with improvements in disease activity and quality of life.15 EVOO's polyphenols, such as hydroxytyrosol, have also been shown to exert protective effects against gastric ulcers in animal models.16

  9. Bone Health Emerging research suggests that olive oil may help maintain bone health. Animal studies have demonstrated that EVOO consumption can increase bone formation and mineralization while reducing bone resorption.17 These effects are attributed to olive oil's high content of MUFAs and polyphenols, which modulate inflammation and oxidative stress in bone tissue.18

  10. Skin Health Topical application and dietary consumption of olive oil may benefit skin health. EVOO's polyphenols, particularly hydroxytyrosol, have been shown to protect against UV-induced skin damage and photoaging.19 Olive oil's MUFAs also contribute to skin hydration and elasticity, while its vitamin E content aids in wound healing and scar prevention.20


Choosing the Healthiest Olive Oil To maximize the health benefits of olive oil, it's crucial to select high-quality, organic, cold-pressed, extra virgin varieties. EVOO is obtained from the first pressing of olives and undergoes minimal processing, preserving its delicate polyphenols and nutrients. In contrast, refined olive oils are treated with chemicals and heat, which can degrade beneficial compounds. When shopping for olive oil, look for bottles labeled "extra virgin" from reputable brands, and opt for dark glass containers to protect against light-induced oxidation.


The scientific evidence supporting olive oil's multifaceted health benefits is compelling. From cardiovascular protection to neuroprotection, anticancer potential to digestive health, EVOO's complex array of bioactive compounds works synergistically to promote optimal well-being. By incorporating high-quality, organic, cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil into your diet, you can harness the power of this ancient elixir to enhance your health and longevity. As research continues to unravel the intricacies of olive oil's therapeutic potential, one thing remains clear: this liquid gold is a true gift from nature, offering a delicious and evidence-based path to lifelong vitality.



References


1. Martínez-González MA, Dominguez LJ, Delgado-Rodríguez M. Olive oil consumption and risk of CHD and/or stroke: a meta-analysis of case-control, cohort and intervention studies. Br J Nutr. 2014;112(2):248-259. doi:10.1017/S0007114514000713

2. Yubero-Serrano EM, Lopez-Moreno J, Gomez-Delgado F, Lopez-Miranda J. Extra virgin olive oil: More than a healthy fat. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2019;72(Suppl 1):8-17. doi:10.1038/s41430-018-0304-x

3. Samieri C, Féart C, Proust-Lima C, et al. Olive oil consumption, plasma oleic acid, and stroke incidence: the Three-City Study. Neurology. 2011;77(5):418-425. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e318220abeb

4. Tsivgoulis G, Psaltopoulou T, Wadley VG, et al. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and prediction of incident stroke. Stroke. 2015;46(3):780-785. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.007894

5. Moreno-Luna R, Muñoz-Hernandez R, Miranda ML, et al. Olive oil polyphenols decrease blood pressure and improve endothelial function in young women with mild hypertension. Am J Hypertens. 2012;25(12):1299-1304. doi:10.1038/ajh.2012.128

6. Medina-Remón A, Tresserra-Rimbau A, Pons A, et al. Effects of total dietary polyphenols on plasma nitric oxide and blood pressure in a high cardiovascular risk cohort. The PREDIMED randomized trial. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2015;25(1):60-67. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2014.09.001

7. Schwingshackl L, Lampousi AM, Portillo MP, et al. Olive oil in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies and intervention trials. Nutr Diabetes. 2017;7(4):e262. Published 2017 Apr 10. doi:10.1038/nutd.2017.12

8. Salas-Salvadó J, Bulló M, Estruch R, et al. Prevention of diabetes with Mediterranean diets: a subgroup analysis of a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(1):1-10. doi:10.7326/M13-1725

9. Abuznait AH, Qosa H, Busnena BA, El Sayed KA, Kaddoumi A. Olive-oil-derived oleocanthal enhances β-amyloid clearance as a potential neuroprotective mechanism against Alzheimer's disease: in vitro and in vivo studies. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2013;4(6):973-982. doi:10.1021/cn400024q

10. Batarseh YS, Kaddoumi A. Oleocanthal-rich extra-virgin olive oil enhances donepezil effect by reducing amyloid-β load and related toxicity in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. J Nutr Biochem. 2018;55:113-123. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.12.006

11. LeGendre O, Breslin PA, Foster DA. (-)-Oleocanthal rapidly and selectively induces cancer cell death via lysosomal membrane permeabilization. Mol Cell Oncol. 2015;2(4):e1006077. Published 2015 Sep 30. doi:10.1080/23723556.2015.1006077

12. Menendez JA, Joven J, Aragonès G, et al. Xenohormetic and anti-aging activity of secoiridoid polyphenols present in extra virgin olive oil: a new family of gerosuppressant agents. Cell Cycle. 2013;12(4):555-578. doi:10.4161/cc.23756

13. Beauchamp GK, Keast RS, Morel D, et al. Phytochemistry: ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature. 2005;437(7055):45-46. doi:10.1038/437045a

14. Schwingshackl L, Christoph M, Hoffmann G. Effects of Olive Oil on Markers of Inflammation and Endothelial Function-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2015;7(9):7651-7675. Published 2015 Sep 11. doi:10.3390/nu7095356

15. Sánchez-Fidalgo S, Sánchez de Ibargüen L, Cárdeno A, Alarcón de la Lastra C. Influence of extra virgin olive oil diet enriched with hydroxytyrosol in a chronic DSS colitis model. Eur J Nutr. 2012;51(4):497-506. doi:10.1007/s00394-011-0235-y

16. Manna C, Migliardi V, Golino P, et al. Oleuropein prevents oxidative myocardial injury induced by ischemia and reperfusion. J Nutr Biochem. 2004;15(8):461-466. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2003.12.010

17. García-Martínez O, Rivas A, Ramos-Torrecillas J, De Luna-Bertos E, Ruiz C. The effect of olive oil on osteoporosis prevention. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014;65(7):834-840. doi:10.3109/09637486.2014.931361

18. Liu H, Huang H, Li B, et al. Olive oil in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis after artificial menopause. Clin Interv Aging. 2014;9:2087-2095. Published 2014 Dec 3. doi:10.2147/CIA.S72006

19. Rahmani AH, Albutti AS, Aly SM. Therapeutics role of olive fruits/oil in the prevention of diseases via modulation of anti-oxidant, anti-tumour and genetic activity. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2014;7(4):799-808.

20. Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. Published 2017 Dec 27. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070

21. GreenMedInfo. Olive Oil. GreenMedInfo.comhttps://greenmedinfo.com/substance/olive-oil. Accessed April 15, 2024.

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