Olive Oil Health Benefits

olive-oilWhat is olive oil?

Olive oil is a fat obtained from the olive (the fruit of (Olea europaea), family Oleaceae), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. The oil is produced by pressing whole olives and is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps, and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. (1)

Types of olive oil

Choosing olive oil is a bit like choosing wine. There are many different grades, and some are more flavorful than others. (2)  Every variety has a particular flavor, texture, and shelf life that make them more or less suitable for different applications such as direct human consumption on bread or in salads, indirect consumption in domestic cooking or catering, or industrial uses such as animal feed or engineering applications. (3) The three main types of olive oil are virgin, extra-virgin, and refined.  Of the three, extra-virgin, which is pressed mechanically from ripe olives and processed without high heat or chemical solvents, is produced with the least human interference. (4)

Composition (macronutrients and calories, beneficial ingredients)

Olive oil is 100% fat, 85% of which is unsaturated fat. A 100g serving of olive oil contains 93% of the recommended daily intake of (vitamin E). There is evidence from several sources that vitamin E prevents or delays (coronary heart disease) (CHD); it might also prevent the formation of blood clots that could lead to a heart attack or (venous thromboembolism). (5) Several observational studies have associated lower rates of heart disease with higher vitamin E intakes. (6) Virgin and extra-virgin olive oils tend to be higher in (polyphenols) (a powerful antioxidant) than the more-processed, refined olive oils. (7)

One (tablespoon) of olive oil (13.5 g) contains the following nutritional information according to the USDA: (8)

Health benefits

For each 10g/d increase in extra-virgin olive oil consumption, cardiovascular disease and mortality risk are decreased by 10% and 7%, respectively. (9) The main type of fat found in all kinds of olive oil is (monounsaturated fatty acids) (MUFAs). MUFAs are actually considered a healthy dietary fat. If your diet replaces saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats such as MUFAs and (polyunsaturated) (PUFAs), you may gain certain health benefits (FDA.gov). (10) A (Mediterranean diet) rich in extra-virgin olive oil may lower the risk of the hearth rhythm disorder known as (atrial fibrillation). (11) In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, a diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and olive oil may protect the skin from damage by (free radicals). This is because these foods have high levels of (antioxidants). (12)


Multiple epidemiological studies to test for the actual health benefits of olive oil have been conducted. In his November, 2004 response letter to a health claim petition on the benefits of olive oil, F.D.A. Director of (The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition), (Robert E. Bracket, Ph.D)., made reference to the four intervention studies conducted in the U.S. and other developed countries. “The four most persuasive studies,” Brackett writes, “provide some evidence to suggest that altering the fat composition of the diet by replacing SFAs with MUFAs from olive oil lowers (serum) total and (LDL-cholesterol) levels, and has no effect on (HDL-cholesterol).” (13)

The FDA’s conclusion was thus: “There is limited but not conclusive evidence that suggests that consumers may reduce their risk of coronary heart disease if they consume monounsaturated fat from olive oil and olive oil-containing foods in place of foods high in saturated fat, while at the same time not increasing the total number of calories consumed daily.” (14)

More recently, in a comprehensive scientific review by the (European Food Safety Authority) (EFSA) in 2011, cause-and-effect relationships were found to not have been adequately established for consumption of olive oil and for the maintenance of 1) normal blood LDL-cholesterol concentrations, 2) normal (fasting) blood concentrations of (triglycerides), 3) normal blood HDL-cholesterol concentrations, and 4) normal (blood glucose) concentrations. (15) A study published in (BMC Med) in May 2014 put forth among its findings that higher (baseline) total olive oil consumption was associated with 48% reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality.(16)  Proof of the health benefits of olive oil falls short of certainty; nevertheless, there is evidence to suggest olive oil may promote the aforementioned aspects of health.

Works Cited:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_oil#cite_note-2
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070811224755.htm
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_oil#cite_note-ucdavis1-22
  4. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/is-extra-virgin-olive-oil-extra-healthy
  5. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/#h6
  6. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-  answers/food-and-nutrition/faq-20058439
  7. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/food-and-nutrition/faq-20058439
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_oil#cite_note-73
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24886626
  10. http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm072963.htm#iii
  11. http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/extra-virgin-olive-oil-may-lower-afib-risk-
  12. http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/skin-wrinkles-and-blemishes
  13. http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm072963.htm#iii
  14. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2004/ucm108368.htm
  15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_oil#cite_note-EFSA-86
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24886626


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