The Health Benefits of Olive Oil
Before diving into the specific benefits of olive oil, it should be noted that the best form of olive oil is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). (1) The processes of making EVOO preserves the largest amount of bioactive antioxidants to support the greatest number of benefits.
How Olive Oil Prevents Chronic Disease
Olives contain a number of bioactive compounds, including healthy fats, squalenes, and phytochemicals, that have been shown to prevent certain chronic conditions. The process of creating EVOO retains a large portion of these compounds and their benefits.
Olive Oil and Cancer
Olive oil intake is inversely associated with cancer incidence, meaning increased intake lowers rate of general cancer. (2)
- Its intake has been shown to reduce the risk of breast and digestive cancers (3)
- Studies have shown that the greatest reduction in Breast Cancer rates was found when olive oil was consumed at least twice per day and when consumed from sources originating in Spain. (4)
The exact mechanism behind how olive oil protects against cancer is unknown, and isolating its individual components (monounsaturated fats or antioxidants derived from the oil) has not replicated the health impacts of consuming the whole oil, indicating that there’s a synergistic effect when consuming the components via olive oil. (5)
How Olive Oil Prevents Cardiovascular Disease
Olive oil consumption has been shown to reduce factors associated with hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.
- Olive oil is predominantly composed of monounsaturated fatty acids. The main form is oleic acid. Consumption of oleic acid has been shown to reduce blood pressure levels. (6) High blood pressure is an issue affecting over 100 million Americans, and it is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke as it puts excess strain on your arterial walls.
- A major factor in the prevention of heart attack and stroke is management of cholesterol levels. The goal is to keep LDL cholesterol levels low and HDL cholesterol levels high. Intake of olive oil reduces LDL levels while raising HDL levels, creating a beneficial ratio and a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. (7)
- Olive oil contains the compound hydroxytyrosol, which is believed to be responsible for this effect. When comparing synthetic hydroxytyrosol to natural forms, sourced from olive oil for example, this effect was more powerful in natural sources. There are benefits to obtaining these compounds through diet rather than through supplements. (8)
Olive Oil and Diabetes Prevention
Olive oil is a staple of the mediterranean diet, and people that engage in this type of diet have lower incidence of diabetes type 2. One combined study showed that a high intake of olive oil reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16%. This benefit capped out at around 15g of olive oil intake. (9) The compounds within olive oil improve markers of diabetes, but in short, olive oil can simply be a healthier substitute for butter. By changing your intake from saturated fats (butter) to unsaturated fats (olive oil), you can markedly improve your health.
Olive Oil and Alzheimer's
There is no single marker of Alzheimer’s development, but one of the major signals is the build up of amyloid beta plaques. These plaques disrupt function and induce toxicity on neuronal cells. Olive oil contains a phenolic compound, called oleuropein, which has been shown to disrupt the structure of these plaques while inhibiting their buildup within neuron cells. (10)
Olive Promotes a Number of Health Benefits
How Olive Oil Promotes Gut Health
Gut health has gained much traction in recent years due to new studies revealing its impact on many bodily systems. The benefits of a healthy gut microbiome include improved mental health, reduced inflammation, and enhanced immune function. EVOO consumption has been shown to improve diversity in the microbiome while raising the amount of good bacteria. (11)
How Olive Oil Protects Your Bones
Olive oil’s bioactive plant compounds have been shown to protect total bone mass, implicating it as a possible resource for the prevention of osteoporosis. (12) More studies are needed to confirm these results.