olive oil health benefits

POLYPHENOLS - Nature’s powerful antioxidants

Extra virgin olive oil is a natural fruit juice containing polyphenols, valuable antioxidants that cannot be found in any other edible oil. Many consider the polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil to be responsible for the low incidence of heart disease associated with people who regularly consume a Mediterranean diet.

    The major polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil include:


    Responsible for bitterness in olive oil, this compound is known to help promote autophagy, the human body’s process of eliminating damaged cells and regenerating new, healthy cells. This process helps make extra virgin olive oil a powerful weapon against neurodegeneration.


    In studies this compound has shown to be beneficial for combating cardiovascular disease, as well as having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects. It is also considered anti-proliferative, meaning it inhibits the growth and propogation of cancer cells. 


    Responsible for the pungency (burning sensation in the back of throat) in extra virgin olive oil, this compound is proven to be a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent, similar to ibuprofen. Oleocanthal has also been proven to be fatal to cancer cells.


    Extra virgin olive oil is the only oil made primarily of monunsaturated fatty acids, with up to 80% of the oil consisting of oleic acid. In fact, extra virgin olive oil is our best available source of oleic acid. Oleic acid is vitally important to human health. While present in many organs, it is the main fatty acid found in the human brain.

    Many studies have been performed on oleic acid, and it is widely understood to provide vital nourishment to every cell in the body, making it critical to improving cell health and preventing premature cell death. Oleic acid is known to reduce bad cholesterol levels while maintaining protective HDL levels. It can help reduce inflammation by making corticosteroids more available to the body. Oleic acid may also play a role in cancer prevention. 

    In addition to the many benefits oleic acid provides, it is also cited for its ability to improve the protective effects of tocopherols, a set of compounds with antioxidant properties. 


    1. Olive oil provides similar benefits to caloric restriction

    Plant polyphenols, including those found in extra virgin olive oil, have properties that mimic the effects of caloric restriction on the body, specifically by affecting the activity and levels of sirtuins, a family of proteins that regulate cellular health. Caloric restriction in humans has shown many beneficial effects, like prolonging lifespan and reducing the risk of age-associated diseases.

    2. Reduces inflammation and relieves rheumatoid arthritis symptoms

    Olive oil has shown that it can decrease systemic inflammation. By inhibiting the activity of specific enzymes that cause inflammation, the oleocanthal in olive oil helps improve health outcomes, as inflammation is a known factor across a variety of chronic diseases. 

    Some evidence suggests extra virgin olive oil can reduce the pain, inflammation and oxidative stress associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Patients taking fish oil also showed significant improvements when their diets were supplemented with olive oil.

    3. Offers exciting results for the fight against cancer

    The polyphenols found in olive oil have shown to have a debilitating effect on cancer cells, both in reducing cell proliferation and increasing cell death. Olive oil’s polyphenols appear to be particularly effective against breast cancer cells, and may also kill skin cancer cells without harming healthy cells.

    4. Repairs the body and combats aging

    Olive oil polyphenols stimulate autophagy, the body’s system of clearing out dead cells and creating new cells, suggesting plant phenols to be a potent weapon against neurodegeneration. Scientists writing in the International Journal of Molecular Science found that “extra virgin olive oil polyphenols can be considered a new family of plant-produced gerosuppressants... leading to prevention against aging and age-related diseases, including cancer.”

    5. Interferes with processes leading to amyloid diseases

    Symptoms of amyloid diseases show correlation with diabetes and also neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers. Olive oil polyphenols appear to reduce accumulation and buildup of the amyloid proteins associated with Alzheimers, with one study finding diminished chances of cognitive deficit for those who used extra virgin olive oil vs. those who did not. The same study found that those in the olive oil-consuming cohort had lower incidence of stroke, as well as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and CVD-related mortality.

    6. Improves cardiovascular health

    Many studies have found extra virgin olive oil to be very beneficial for cardiovascular health. The polyphenols in olive oil lower the risk of heart disease, lower LDL cholesterol levels as well as total cholesterol levels, and help prevent the formation of plaque in arteries. A 2000 study published by the University of Naples, Italy concluded that the regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil reduces the daily dosage requirement for individuals prescribed medication for hypertension.

    7. Improves obesity outcomes

    Several plant phenols show the ability to combat obesity-related conditions. Consumption of olive oil polyphenols can help reduce food intake and fat tissue accumulation by better regulating proper cell function, a process which also helps reduce obesity-related inflammation.

    Obesity has high correlation with both cardiovascular disease and also type-2 diabetes. The polyphenols found in extra virgin olive oil have been shown to improve fat metabolism and insulin sensitivity, while also helping to balance blood sugar levels.

    Typically the body stores fat in cells called adipocytes. In obese individuals, extra virgin olive oil can help prevent lipotoxicity and cell death when fatty acids get stored in non-adipose tissues.

    Olive oil can also help improve liver health related to metabolic syndrome, and protect against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease by alleviating oxidative stress and improving inflammatory response.

    8. Shows antibacterial properties

    Studies show that olive oil can destroy bacteria associated with ulcers and stomach cancer. Strains of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori have shown some antibiotic resistance. In tests extra virgin olive oil was able to eradicate all strains of the bacteria, including those with antibiotic resistance.

    9. Reduces the risk of depression

    Research suggests that consumption of extra virgin olive oil as part of a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of depression, especially when compared to a cohort consuming trans-fats, a practice which shows correlation with increased risk of depression..


    Vitamin E

    Alpha tocopherol is the primary type of Vitamin E in extra virgin olive oil. Approximately 2 milligrams of Vitamin E can be acquired from a tablespoon of olive oil, which is about 10% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin E. 

    According to the NIH Vitamin E has anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce incidence of heart disease, and can also reduce the chance of mortality from cardiovascular issues in women. The Mayo Clinic suggests that Vitamin E helps prevent the advance of Alzheimer's disease.

    Vitamin K

    The other main vitamin found in extra virgin olive oil is Vitamin K, with about 10% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin K in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Research shows that Vitamin K is an important nutrient to aid in blood clotting. Vitamin K has also been cited to improve bone health, and may help prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin K is present in many major organs, including the brain, heart, liver, pancreas and bone.

    National Institute of Health (NIH)
    Science Daily
    Science Direct

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