The health properties of olive oil

Olive oil is one of the most precious oils throughout the years. It is used in beauty products, for hygiene, furniture care, massage and self-care, but mostly in as a valued

nutritional commodity consumed either raw or cooked. Olive oil, is also the main source of fat in the famous Mediterranean diet which is associated with a number of important health benefits such as a lower risk of autoimmune diseases and a longer expectancy of life. (Cicerale et al., 2012)

Olive oil types

Olive oil comes in a variety of selections and geographical labels but the consumer will probably notice three of them: Virgin olive oil, Extra virgin olive oil, and Refined olive oil.

Extra Virgin olive oil the highest quality of olive oil. It is rich in odor, taste, and color, and it is the most expensive. The extraction of the oil is solely by mechanical (pressing) procedures without the use of chemicals or heat and it contains the largest amount of polyphenolics* (Craig, ….)

Virgin olive oil is inferior in quality and taste, and it is more acidic than the extra virgin olive oil (up to double amount of free acidity)

Unlike Extra virgin and virgin olive oil, the Refined one is extracted by chemical procedures, It has the highest acidity and is usually mixed with virgin oils to increase flavor. It is therefore the cheapest on the market.

The nutritional and health properties of olive oil

What makes olive oil so different from other oils in the kitchen, is its nutritional properties. It is a good source of antioxidants, very rich in Monounsaturated Fat and just one tablespoon contains 10% of the Daily Value in Vitamin E and vitamin K.

Also, newly pressed extra-virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal (Beauchamp et al., 2005). Oleocanthal is responsible for the burning sensation in the back of the throat. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is beneficial in Alzheimer’s disease.
One study has indicated that oleocanthal has an ibuprofen-like activity (Beauchamp et al., 2005).
Extra-virgin olive oil is also very rich in Phenolic compounds. Those include anthocyanins, flavonoids, tyrosol, hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein, carnosol and phenolic acids. Every single compound comes with a variety of benefits. For example, hydroxytyrosol is a phenolic compound with anticancer, antiatherogenic, strong antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. (Granados-Principal et al., 2010). But in a nutshell, Phenolic compounds of olive oil have antioxidant, antithrombotic and antihypertensive effects (Covas et al.,2006)


From the above we reach the conclusion that Extra virgin olive oil is a treasure trove of potent compounds (Granados-Principal et al., 2010) and as such, an excellent culinary choice, not only because it is tasty,excellent digestibility , high oxidative stability even when cooked (Angerosa. 2002)  but also because it has been associated with nutritional factors that promote health.

The evidence that supports the benefits of olive oil in human health is rising. Consumption of olive oil as a part of a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, it is beneficial in blood pressure, postprandial hyperlipidemia, endothelial dysfunction, oxidative stress and antithrombotic profiles, help prevent heart disease and it is beneficial even in dangerous malignant carcinoma (Frankel, 2011)

*Polyphenolics are also called polyphenols, phenolics are also called phenols

Resat Alagiali


References and Bibliography

Angerosa, F. (2002) ‘Influence of volatile compounds on virgin olive oil quality avaluated by analytical approaches and sensor panels’, Eur J Lipid Sci Technol, 104(9–10), pp. 639–660.

Beauchamp, G.K., Keast, R.S.J., Morel, D., Lin, J., Pika, J., Han, Q., Lee, C.-H., Smith, A.B., Breslin, P.A.S., 2005. Phytochemistry: Ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature 437, 45–46. doi:10.1038/437045a

Cicerale, S., Lucas, L., Keast, R., 2012. Antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phenolic activities in extra virgin olive oil. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, Food biotechnology – Plant biotechnology 23, 129–135. doi:10.1016/j.copbio.2011.09.006

Covas, M. I., De la Torre, R., Kafatos, A., Lamuela-Raventos, R. M. and Osada, J. (2006) ‘Minor components of olive oil: evidence to date of health benefits in humans’, Nutr. Rev., 64(suppl.(October), pp. 20–30. doi: 10.1301/nr.2006.oct.S20.

Frankel, E.N., 2011. Nutritional and Biological Properties of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. J. Agric. Food Chem. 59, 785–792. doi:10.1021/jf103813t

Granados-Principal, S., Quiles, J.L., Ramirez-Tortosa, C.L., Sanchez-Rovira, P., Ramirez-Tortosa, M.C., 2010. Hydroxytyrosol: from laboratory investigations to future clinical trials. Nutrition Reviews 68, 191–206. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00278.x



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