What are the Benefits of Olive Oil?

Olive oil has been used medicinally for centuries. In Ancient Greece, Hippocrates called olive oil "the great healer" and prescribed olive oil for various general ailments. Now, modern scientific and technological advancements have allowed researchers to understand exactly what health benefits you can expect by consuming olive oil daily.

We've compiled the most persuasive studies that link olive oil intake to specific health conditions so you can learn how to improve your health, and what to look for when purchasing olive oil for these functions.

Improve brain function

Simply switching to higher-quality oil sources can have a protective effect on brain health, even at doses as low as two tablespoons a day. Researchers found that older study participants that completely replaced all the various vegetable oils in their diet (such as safflower, canola or low-quality olive oil) to high-quality extra virgin olive oil had enhanced cognitive function just one year later1. Similarly, mice fed with EVOO for six months displayed less Alzheimer's disease-causing protein aggregates in their brain, resulting in improved memory and cognitive function2.

Combat diabetes

Incorporating high-phenolic EVOO into your daily routine may represent an effective procedure to defend against diabetes. Earlier this year, researchers found that olive oils high in phenolic compounds can be used for the maintenance of diabetes3. They extracted the medically active phenolic compounds from high-quality olive oil and found that these EVOO extracts were more effective at inhibiting diabetes-related enzymes than Acarbose, a common drug prescribed to diabetics.

Control inflammation

High-quality EVOO has a repertoire of medically-active compounds that keep inflammation in check and protect against developing chronic inflammatory diseases. Various phenolic compounds, such as oleuropein, oleocanthal and hydroxytyrosol, and triterpenic compounds, such as oleanolic acid and maslinic acid, have been credited with the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties of medicinal EVOO. In fact, a recent human study demonstrated the importance of consuming olive oil that is high in both phenols and triterpenes for reducing inflammation and DNA oxidation4.

Fend off cancer

Regular EVOO consumption has been linked to decreased risk of developing cancer5. In fact, people in the Mediterranean basin have decreased rates of cancer and decreased cancer mortality6, possibly because of higher EVOO consumption than the rest of the world. Studies have linked the polyphenols found in EVOO to its cancer-fighting abilities; these polyphenols can kill cancer cells, but not non-cancerous cells7, eliminating many of the side effects found with classic chemotherapies, and can reverse acquired resistance to standard-of-care breast cancer treatments8.

Boost heart health

Supplementing your diet with high-phenolic olive oil has been shown to improve your cardiovascular health. High-phenolic olive oil, but not low-phenolic olive oil, has been shown to improve both blood pressure and endothelial function9. And just three weeks of consuming two tablespoons a day of high-phenolic olive oil enhanced cholesterol levels, whereas low-phenolic olive oil consumption actually worsened cholesterol levels10. The negative effect of low-phenolic olive oil strengthens the importance of using high-quality EVOO.