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7 Amazing Health Benefits of Olive Oil + Emerging Research

Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
SelfDecode Science Team | Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Last updated:

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Olive oil is not only good for cooking but for our health as well, with potential benefits to blood sugar, heart health, metabolic syndrome, depression, and more. Read on to learn how to take advantage of this Mediterranean superfood.

What is Olive Oil?

Olive oil is fat from the olive, a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. The oil is made by pressing whole olives [1].

Along with its culinary and religious uses, it also has many health benefits. The phenols in the oil contain most of the beneficial properties.

Olive oil is also the primary fat source in the Mediterranean diet, a dietary strategy increasingly used to improve brain and heart health [2].

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Olive oil is safe to eat as food, but has not been approved by the FDA for medical use. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.

Possibly Effective For

1) Diabetes

The Mediterranean diet uses olive oil as its main source of fat. The ADA recommends using this diet to improve blood sugar control. By following this diet, there is a 20%-23% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes [3].

11 overweight and diabetic patients added olive oil to their diet, which significantly reduced fasting blood sugar. Daily consumption can also improve metabolic control in overweight type 2 diabetes patients [4].

Older adults who were at risk of losing their eyesight due to diabetes were put on a diet containing olive oil. They were less likely to lose their eyesight in comparison to those who did not increase their olive oil intake [5].

2) Heart Disease

165 patients who were at high risk for heart disease went on a diet including olive oil. Those patients had decreased blood pressure, total cholesterol, low-density cholesterol, and triglycerides [6].

Tomato sauce enriched with olive oil has a greater effect on heart risk factors than just raw tomato sauce [7].

Olive oil enhanced the cholesterol-lowering properties of high-density lipids and protected cells from oxidative stress [8].

In non-smoking women, olive oil decreased blood nitric oxide as well as endothelin-1. This explains the effect of olive oil lowering blood pressure among hypertensive women [9].

Olive oil increases high-density lipid cholesterol. It also reduces the oxidative damage to lipids, decreases inflammation and improves tissue function [10].

Insufficient Evidence For

The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of olive oil for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking using olive oil for medical reasons, and never use it in place of something your doctor recommends or prescribes.

3) Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that increase the risk of heart problems, stroke, and diabetes.

A diet enriched with olive oil enhanced the blood antioxidant capabilities [11].

In women, an oil-rich diet reduced the risk of metabolic syndrome as well as heart disease [12].

A combination of olive and fish oil have a synergistic effect on lipid metabolism and oxidative stress in patients [13].

Additionally, it is likely to cause the reversion of this condition [14].

4) Depression

Depressed patients were given a diet that included olive oil and evaluated over the time period. They showed a decrease in depression scores [15].

Olive consumption is inversely associated with depression risks and improved depressive symptoms [16].

Animal Research (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of olive oil for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

5) Alzheimer’s Disease

Mice that had memory loss had olive oil included in their diet for 8 weeks. Their memory improved, and there was a significant response in the cortex to promote the formation of new cells in the brain [17].

Alzheimer’s is characterized by the accumulation of β-amyloid (Aβ) and tau proteins in the brain. In mice, the oil leads to an up-regulation of Aβ degrading enzymes, which helps prevents Alzheimer’s [18].

6) Osteoporosis

Olive oil reduced bone loss in ovariectomized rats [19].

Additionally, it increased osteoblast cell formation [20].

Oil with vitamins might be beneficial to include in the diet of women to help for bone protection and against oxidative stress [21].

7) Wound Healing

Scientists treated mice (who had induced ulcers) with either water or olive oil to help them heal. The oil helped heal pressure ulcers and improved skin health [22].

Linear incisions and circular excisions wound models were created in the buccal mucosa of rats to determine the healing effect of olive oil on the wounds. The oil has healing effects in both incisions and excisions as well as anti-inflammatory effects [23].

Cancer Research

One of the main phenols in olive oil, hydroxytyrosol, possesses antitumor effects due to pro-oxidant properties, the capacity to inhibit the growth of cells, and the promotion of cell death. Hydroxytyrosol treatment reduced thyroid cancer cells by promoting programmed cell death in those cells [24].

Higher olive oil intake may be a protective factor against breast cancer [25].

Another polyphenol, oleuropein, can cause programmed cell death in breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and thyroid cancer [26].

Olive oil diets also influenced the expression of age-related changes. Diets can regulate the different susceptibility to chemical exposure leading to breast cancer [27].

About the Author

Puya Yazdi

Puya Yazdi

MD
Dr. Puya Yazdi is a physician-scientist with 14+ years of experience in clinical medicine, life sciences, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals.
As a physician-scientist with expertise in genomics, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals, he has made it his mission to bring precision medicine to the bedside and help transform healthcare in the 21st century.He received his undergraduate education at the University of California at Irvine, a Medical Doctorate from the University of Southern California, and was a Resident Physician at Stanford University. He then proceeded to serve as a Clinical Fellow of The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine at The University of California at Irvine, where he conducted research of stem cells, epigenetics, and genomics. He was also a Medical Director for Cyvex Nutrition before serving as president of Systomic Health, a biotechnology consulting agency, where he served as an expert on genomics and other high-throughput technologies. His previous clients include Allergan, Caladrius Biosciences, and Omega Protein. He has a history of peer-reviewed publications, intellectual property discoveries (patents, etc.), clinical trial design, and a thorough knowledge of the regulatory landscape in biotechnology.He is leading our entire scientific and medical team in order to ensure accuracy and scientific validity of our content and products.

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