Healthy Science

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The International Olive Council released a white paper in 2012, entitled “Health Benefits of Olives and Olive Oils” that identified benefits of including table olives and olive oil as part of a well-balanced, nutritious diet and the important role they play as the primary sources of dietary fat in the Mediterranean Diet. Olive oil is a rich source of numerous compounds, including polyphenols, with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. The full report is available here, but we have provided a summary of the main findings below.

Cardiovascular Disease

Olive oil reduces low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol without decrease of HDL (or “good”) cholesterol and improves many additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including blood pressure, glucose metabolism and antithrombotic profile (helps protect against blood clots). Olive oil can also positively change endothelial function (blood flow), inflammation and oxidative stress, which can play a role in atherosclerosis and increase risk of heart attack or stroke. Since 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA announced the availability of a qualified health claim for monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil and reduced risk of coronary heart disease. “Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil.”


Clinical studies support the positive effect of olive oil on diabetes: a study of 418 people showed that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil reduced diabetes by nearly 50 percent compared to low-fat diets.


Data from the Three Cities Study found that elderly people who consume olive oil daily have fewer strokes than those who do not. After five years, there were 148 incidents of stroke among the 7,625 study participants. Those who were “intensive” users of olive oil (using it for both cooking and as a dressing) had a 41 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who did not use olive oil at all¹.

Hydroxytyrosol and Heart Health

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently approved a “heart health” claim for hydroxytyrosol. This phytochemical and related polyphenol compounds from olives and olive oil offer protection to blood lipids from oxidative damage.²


Studies have found that excessive saturated and trans fat consumption cause cancer, and also concluded that there are clear associations between reduced rates of certain types of cancer and increased olive oil consumption.³ The oleic acid in olive oil has been found to be particularly effective against breast, colon and prostate cancer. Eating a Mediterranean Diet could prevent up to 25 percent of colon; 15 percent of breast; and 10 percent of prostate, pancreas and endometrial cancers.(4)


The Mediterranean diet in general and olives and olive oil in particular have many anti-inflammatory properties. For example, increased olive oil consumption has been linked to a decreased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation and pain, particularly in the joints. Add to this the numerous hair and skin treatments that champion olive oil, and you have one mighty healthy and useful oil!

For up to date health news, visit our news archives for the latest research, or visit this page by the IOC: 1. Samieri C et al. Olive oil consumption, plasma oleic acid, and stroke incidence: the Three-City Study. Neurology 2011;77: 418-25. 2. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to polyphenols in olive. EFSA Journal 2011;9(4):2033. 3. Owen RW et al. Olives and olive oil in cancer prevention. Eur J Cancer Prev 2004;13:319-326. 4. La Vecchia C. Mediterranean diet and cancer. Public Health Nutr 2004;7:965-8. 5. Wahle KW et al. Olive oil and modulation of cell signaling in disease prevention. Lipids. 2004;39(12):1223-31. Source: “Health Benefits of Olives and Olive Oil”, International Olive Council