Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Olive Oil (Extra Virgin, Pure, Unrefined)

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Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Olive Oil (Extra Virgin, Pure, Unrefined)

Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, is an important source of healthy fatty acids that have tremendous health benefits. Extra virgin olive oil is good for you because it is rich in monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which helps to reduce inflammation, keep your heart healthy, lower cholesterol, and lower your risk of stroke. Consuming extra virgin olive oil as part of a healthy diet can even help you lose weight.


Olive oil is the foundation of the Mediterranean diet, which many researchers say promotes good health. You can use extra virgin olive oil to make nutritious and healthy salad dressings. Extra virgin olive oil is good for cooking with because its high levels of antioxidants protect the oil’s chemical composition during frying.

There are also many health benefits to drinking olive oil: consuming a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in the morning can help kick-start your day and benefit your digestion.

In this article, you will find out about the many reasons why consuming extra virgin olive oil is good for you. You will also find interesting ways to incorporate more olive oil into your diet.

What Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) comes from pressing the oil from the fruit of olive trees. Olive trees have grown around the Mediterranean for centuries where olives and olive oil are staple foods.

The journal HortScience reports that extra virgin olive oil is obtained by crushing olives into a paste in a process called malaxation. Oil is then extracted from the paste by pressing it or using a centrifuge to separate the oil. This process results in a cold-pressed olive oil that can be used without any further processing. (1)

Researchers say that unrefined extra virgin olive oil contains the highest amounts of polyphenols – plant-based antioxidants. (2)

Unfiltered extra virgin olive oil contains even more beneficial nutrients than filtered olive oil.

Pure Olive Oil vs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil – What Is the Difference?

The difference between pure olive oil and extra virgin olive oil is the processing. Extra virgin olive oil is cold pressed and is minimally processed. Pure olive oil is a mixture of refined olive oil and EVOO.

Extra virgin olive oil (real olive oil) is obtained by crushing high-quality olives and then separating the pure oil from the paste. Extra virgin olive oil has a fruity aroma and is packed with antioxidants. (2)

Pure olive oil is a mixture of some EVOO and refined olive oil. Oil refining uses high temperatures or chemicals to remove any impurities in the oil. Olive oil that is of poor quality is refined to make it good for human consumption. (2)

Refined olive oil contains few, if any, antioxidants, vitamins, or other nutrients. (2)

The best type of olive oil is extra virgin olive oil because it is the least processed and it contains the highest levels of antioxidants.

What Is the Best Olive Oil for Cooking?

Many scientific studies point to the fact that using extra virgin olive oil for light frying can be better than refined oils. Pure olive oil has more neutral flavor so it’s great for cooking and baking where you only want a hint of the olive essence.

The journal Advances in Nutrition reported that the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil is 191°C (375°F). The optimal temperature for frying is 180°C (365°F). Therefore, researchers say that you can use extra virgin olive oil for cooking, but not for prolonged frying. (3)

Frying with EVOO for too long can cause chemical changes in the oil and can produce a toxic substance called acrolein.

Scientific research has also found that the high antioxidant content of extra virgin olive oil actually protects the oil during heating. Researchers in one scientific study heated various types of olive oils to high temperatures, and extra virgin olive oil was the one that suffered less oxidation. The higher levels of antioxidants in EVOO protect the oil’s chemical composition during frying. (4)

Researchers discovered that heating extra virgin olive oil to 180°C (365°F) for 36 hours did not affect the fatty acid content of the oil. However, there was a decrease in some antioxidants. (5) It would seem that high-quality extra virgin olive oil is good for cooking with and even light frying.

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Olive Oil Nutrition

Like all oils and fats, olive oil contains a lot of calories; however, what makes olive oil very healthy is that its antioxidants are good for boosting your health.

One tablespoon (14 g) of olive oil contains 119 calories, most of which come from its polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.(45)

One tablespoon (14 g) of olive oil contains 14 g of fat but because most of the fat in olive oil is unsaturated fat (oleic acid), it is very healthy for you. (45)

One tablespoon (14 g) of olive oil contains 1.9 mg of vitamin of E and 8.1 mcg of vitamin K, which is 10% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of these vitamins. (10)

14 g of olive oil (one tablespoon) contains 103 mg omega-3 and 1318 mg omega-6 fatty acids.

Olive oil is a fruit oil and as such doesn’t contain cholesterol.

Why Olive Oil is Really Good For You

Drinking extra virgin olive oil is good for your health because it can benefit your cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation, and may even boost your cognitive health.

One study showed that men who consumed 40 ml of extra virgin olive oil weekly showed signs of better cardiovascular health. This was due to the high levels of oleocanthal which is a powerful antioxidant. (6)

Consuming olive oil is healthy for you because of its high content of oleic acid. This healthy monounsaturated fat makes up for around 83% of the EVOO content. (2)

Oleic acid has been linked to strengthening immunity, lowering inflammation, better skin health, and protecting the cardiovascular system. (7)

Virgin olive oil contains about 500 mg/L of polyphenols. (2) The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that polyphenols are important compounds to protect human health against degenerative diseases and cancer. (9)

Drinking olive oil is good for treating constipation: one scientific study mentioned that olive oil can be used as a stool softener. You can drink one tablespoon of olive oil before bed and in the morning to soften your stool and relieve constipation.

Here are the many proven health benefits of drinking olive oil:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Promotes Good Cardiovascular Health

Drinking one or 2 tablespoons every day of extra virgin olive oil can help to keep your heart healthy and prevent heart disease.

The British Journal of Nutrition published a review of studies done on the cardiovascular effects of consuming olive oil. Researchers found that olive oil helps to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. (11)

Some of the reasons why extra virgin olive oil is so good for your cardiac health is that it helps to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.

Drinking olive oil regularly can lower blood pressure

One clinical study found that consuming virgin olive oil helped to lower blood pressure in elderly persons over a 4-week period. The men and women in the trial consumed 60 g of extra virgin olive oil daily. A diet rich in olive oil helped to reduce systolic blood pressure. (12)

A systematic review of the effects of polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil found that their cardio-protective effects include treating hypertension. (13)

Lab trials involving animal subjects have also confirmed why olive oil is good for reducing blood pressure. Scientists found that administering olive oil always reduced blood pressure in hypertensive rats. The scientists concluded that EVOO can be a useful tool for treating high blood pressure. (14)

Find out about other natural remedies that can help treat hypertension.

Taking olive oil is good for your heart and may help prevent heart attack

Another reason why taking extra virgin olive oil regularly is good for you is that it can lower your risk of a heart attack.

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A clinical study involving over 7,000 humans have found that consuming extra virgin olive oil daily greatly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Researchers found that for every 10 g of extra virgin olive oil a day, your risk of dying from a major coronary event is lowered by 7%. (15)

The study found that extra virgin olive oil was more effective than regular olive oil in preventing heart disease.

Did you know that there are 5 easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of a heart attack?

EVOO can lower “bad” cholesterol and reduce atherosclerosis

The Journal of Nutrition published a study showing that men who consumed virgin olive oil had lower LDL cholesterol levels than men who used refined olive oil. Over a 3-month period, the men cooked with extra virgin olive oil. At the end of the study, it was found that the high levels of antioxidants in EVOO protects against “bad” cholesterol. (16)

Other studies have shown that the benefits of extra virgin olive oil in the Mediterranean diet help to increase HDL, or “good” cholesterol. This is the healthy type of cholesterol that reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. (17)

Another reason to consume 1 or 2 tablespoons a day of extra virgin olive oil is that it is good for reducing plaque buildup in your arteries. Scientists have found that regular consumption of EVOO helps to reduce artery inflammation and remove plaque from your arteries. (18)

Find out what else you can do to lower your cholesterol and care for the health of your arteries.

Consuming more extra virgin olive oil can reduce your risk of stroke

Because extra virgin olive oil is so good for keeping your cardiovascular system healthy, it means that it can help prevent a stroke.

Research from 2018 found that the oleic acid content of virgin olive oil can lower the incidences of suffering from a stroke or heart attack. Researchers suggested that people regularly take extra virgin olive oil to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. (19)

Learn about how to reduce your risk of stroke in this article.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Cooking with extra virgin olive oil or drinking extra virgin olive oil can help prevent the effects of having a poor diet.

The journal Current Pharmaceutical Design reported that poor dietary habits can lead to chronic inflammation. This is implicated in a number of serious and life-threatening diseases. However, the anti-inflammatory compounds in olive oil such as oleocanthal can help to reduce inflammation in the body. (20)

Other studies have suggested that the anti-inflammatory properties of extra virgin olive oil can help to manage various inflammatory diseases. Consuming extra virgin olive oil can help improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease and lupus. (21)

You can add olive oil when cooking any of these foods that have anti-inflammatory properties.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Has Antibacterial Properties

One of the many benefits of cooking with extra virgin olive oil is that antioxidants in the oil can kill off bacteria.

Research has shown that the addition of olive oil to food can protect against infection from food-borne pathogens. For example, mayonnaise or salads that had extra virgin olive oil added contained fewer Salmonella and Listeria germs. (22)

Some other studies suggest that consuming pure olive oil can have an antibacterial effect on Helicobacter pylori infections. (23) This means that consuming 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the morning could help treat peptic ulcers.

Learn about some of the most powerful natural antibiotics that don’t need a prescription.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is Good to Take if You Have Diabetes

Supplementing your diet with extra virgin olive oil can be good for you if you suffer from diabetes.

Scientists have revealed that compounds in olive oil like oleuropein help your body secrete more insulin and have a detoxifying effect on the body. The researchers said that oleuropein could prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. (24)

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A meta-analysis of 29 trials involving over 15,000 people with diabetes found that olive oil can help to prevent and also manage diabetes symptoms. (25)

One study found that women who regularly consume olive oil have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study involved nearly 60,000 women over a 22-year period. The researchers suggested that taking 1 tablespoon daily of olive oil can help to lower the risk of diabetes by up to 15%. (26)

Learn about what foods you can eat to control type 2 diabetes and help prevent your symptoms from getting worse.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Helps to Strengthen Bones

A daily dose of extra virgin olive oil can help to prevent osteoporosis and brittle bones in older persons.

A review of the benefits of olive oil on bone health found that consuming 50 ml of olive oil every day prevented loss of bone density. (27)

Also, women who took 20 ml of enriched extra virgin olive oil daily reduced the effects of oxidative stress on bone health. The extra virgin olive oil was enriched with vitamin K, D3, and B6. (28)

Other studies have suggested that taking a dose of extra virgin olive oil can prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. (29)

Find out what you can do to reduce your risk of osteoporosis and help prevent bone fractures.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Can Help You Lose Weight

Consuming healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil can actually boost your efforts to shed excess body fat.

One interesting study on women found that supplementing the diet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil daily was more effective for losing weight than a low-fat diet. (30)

One clinical trial involving 41 obese women found that taking 25 ml of olive oil at breakfast time helped to lose weight on an energy-restricted diet program. The scientists observed that consuming extra virgin olive oil helped to reduce body fat. (31)

Did you know that coconut oil is another oil that can help you lose weight? Find more information and related studies in this article.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Helps Prevent Age-Related Brain Disorders

Several studies have shown that olive oil can affect the brain and reduce the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This disease is one of the most studied diseases and a significant cause of dementia in the elderly.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is a brain condition that leads to a decline in an individual’s memory, thinking and reasoning abilities.

In a study published in PLOS One journal, mice with Alzheimer’s disease were given oleuropein aglycone, the main polyphenol found in extra virgin olive oil, for 8 weeks. The results showed a significant improvement in the cognitive performance of the mice compared to the group that did not receive the olive oil polyphenol. (44)

The scientists also conducted memory performance tests and noted that in the mouse model, cognitive impairment was completely prevented by oleuropein aglycone administration to the mice.

Another research by the Geriatric Research Educational and Clinical Center, examined the effects of extra virgin olive oil on learning and memory in mice having brain oxidative damage for 6 weeks. The findings suggest that extra virgin olive oil has beneficial effects on learning and memory deficits found in aged people and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. (45)

The anti-inflammatory effect of olive oil antioxidants also promotes good brain health and prevent age-related cognitive dysfunction. (46)

One trial on mice found that taking extra virgin olive oil increases levels of glutathione in the brain. This is one of the most important antioxidants in the body. The effects of increased glutathione levels boosted learning potential and lowered memory deficits. (32)

In another study from 2017 conducted on mice, the researchers discovered that drinking extra-virgin olive oil protects memory and learning ability, and protects the brain against Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. (33)

You can greatly reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by taking any of these supplements.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Good for Your Skin

Extra virgin olive oil contains many antioxidants and other compounds that really help to improve the appearance of your skin.

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Research has revealed that healthy fats like olive oil are necessary to protect the structure of your skin. Fatty acids like oleic acid help to prevent fine lines, wrinkles, and other effects of photoaging. Consuming extra virgin olive oil can help to protect your skin from DNA damage. (34)

Extra virgin olive oil is also a great way to moisturize and nourish your skin naturally. In fact, the antibacterial properties of EVOO are strong enough to heal outbreaks of eczema on your skin. (35)

Find out what essential oils you can add to olive oil to help combat wrinkles naturally.

Virgin Olive Oil is Good for Your Hair and Scalp

You can also use olive oil to improve the condition of your scalp and get shiny, beautiful-looking hair.

Olive oil, along with other natural ingredients, can help to get rid of dandruff and be used as a hair conditioner.

Find out how to use olive oil for your hair and how to make a hair mask using olive oil in my article “Olive Oil for Hair Care“.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Good for Treating Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

Because olive oil is anti-inflammatory, supplementing your diet with a tablespoon or two a day can help to relieve joint pain and inflammation.

The journal Nutrition reported that ingesting fish oil along with olive oil can help to relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain. The most effective dose was 3 grams a day of omega-3 fatty acids and 9.6 ml of olive oil. (36)

The reason that extra virgin olive oil is good for treating arthritis is that it helps to inhibit enzymes in the body that are connected with inflammation. (37)

Also, oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil can help to protect against the effects of many inflammatory conditions, including osteoarthritis. (38)

Find out what are the best foods along with olive oil to eat if you suffer from arthritic pain.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Drops Can Help Remove Earwax and Treat Ear Infections

A few drops of warm olive oil can be the best way to dissolve earwax and prevent infections in your outer or middle ear.

The publication Informed Health Online says that a warm olive oil is a safe and natural way to soften earwax and remove it from your ear. (39)

Other studies have shown that pure olive oil can help to treat painful middle ear infections. (40)

Learn how to use olive oil to treat an ear infection as well as other natural remedies if you have ear pain.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Has Anticancer Properties

One of the benefits of olive oil is that it protects against skin, colon and breast cancer. A number of research studies have documented that eating a healthy diet with olive oil as the main source of fat could considerably lower cancer incidence.

This beneficial effect could be attributed to oleic acid, the predominant monounsaturated fatty acid in olive oil. However, it is not excluded that other substances of olive oil, such as antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols and squalene may also have a positive influence. Squalene is believed to have a favorable effect on the skin by reducing the incidence of melanomas.

Olive Oil and Breast Cancer Prevention

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women, and it kills more women than any other type of cancer, other than lung cancer.

There are a number of scientific reports and studies that explain how olive oil can help you to reduce the risks associated with breast cancer.

The European Study – Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Breast Cancer

A study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention reported that individuals who lived in the Mediterranean basin had reduced risks in terms of developing degenerative diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. (47)

The researchers concluded that olives and olive oil may be one of the reasons why these individuals had reduced risks. Olive oil and olives are abundant in antioxidants, lignans (which are also found in flaxseeds), and other compounds that can reduce the risk factors associated with developing cancer.

The Spanish Study – Olive Oil and Tumor Cells

A study done at the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Spain further explained how olive oil can help to reduce your risk of developing cancer.

In the study, the scientists managed to show that olive oil targets cancer cells and they proved that the consumption of extra virgin olive oil reduced the malignancy of the tumors. (48)

The Greek Study – the Mediterranean Diet and Breast Cancer

Scientists in Greece studied approximately 15,000 women for ten years in Greece. They reviewed the dietary habits of these women, giving their diets a score between 0 and 9 depending on how close their diets were to a traditional Mediterranean diet. (49)

This study concluded that post-menopausal women who adhered to the olive oil rich Mediterranean diet had reduced their risk of developing breast cancer by 22%. The diet did not seem to reduce the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women, but there is a lower incidence of breast cancer in Mediterranean countries.

Olive Oil and Brain Cancer Prevention

Another study in laboratory conditions from the University of Edinburgh that published in 2017 found that oleic acid, the primary ingredient in olive oil, can help prevent cancer-causing genes, and may help to prevent cancer developing in the brain. (50)

The researchers said that it is too early to say if dietary consumption of olive oil may help prevent brain cancer, however their findings point towards possible therapies based on olive oil to prevent brain cancer from occurring.

How Much Olive Oil to Consume Daily

How much olive oil should you take every day to help improve your heart health, lower cholesterol, and treat hypertension?

Doctors from WebMD say that many studies show that taking 2 tablespoons a day of extra virgin olive oil can help to treat high cholesterol and lower blood pressure. To help lower your risk of coronary heart disease, you could take between 3 and 4 tablespoons of EVOO. (41)

Some people take a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil followed by a glass of lemon juice. This helps to remove the oily taste from your mouth and gives you a good dose of vitamin C. Mixing lemon juice and olive oil is also great for liver cleansing – see more information in my article “A Powerful Mixture for Cleansing Your Liver“.

So add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil a day to your diet – add it to your salad dressing or coat the olive oil on fish, meat or veggies before baking or roasting them, or drizzle olive oil on your morning toast or in your yogurt or mashed potatoes.

Is Olive Oil Bad for You? Side Effects of Drinking Olive Oil

Olive oil is an extremely healthy oil that is packed with goodness that can benefit your health.

One of the obvious side effects of consuming extra virgin olive oil is that it is high in calories. However, doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that you should switch to olive oil in place of margarine or butter. (42)

Olive oil can also go rancid. So, if there is an “off” smell or a musty smell to your olive oil, you should discard it. Rancid olive oil loses much of its antioxidants.

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11 Responses to Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Olive Oil (Extra Virgin, Pure, Unrefined)

  1. Arnold says:

    Use olive oil instead anti-acid pills. Works wonders.

  2. Reg Hicks says:

    I have used raw organic EV olive oil for about 18 months but probably not as much as 2 tbsps. a day. Can you advise a recipe for an oil salad dressing, please? I used to holiday in the Algarve and loved their dressing but find the oil on its own not the same. Would it be okay to take this oil direct by the spoonful?

    • Jenny says:

      There are many variations for olive oil salad dressing, but the most basic one is to combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Then taste and adjust amounts. Others like to add garlic or replace the lemon juice with some sort of vinegar, while others add fresh or dried herbs, mustard and a little bit of honey. You can also take olive oil directly by the spoonful.

    • Joe says:

      the healthiest and tastiest recipe of salad…is using 2 spoons of olives oil..2 spoons of lemon…half spoon of apple vinegar…1 spoon of garlic..salt and pepper to taste …mix the ingredients together and put it on your salad..just make sure there is onion in the salad too…the mixture between onion garlic olives oil and lemon and vinegar will give you an awesome taste …very healthy too !

  3. Ma. Jocelyn Bacual says:

    When is olive oil taken, before or after meals?

    • Jenny says:

      It’s best to take olive oil with meals, as there are vitamins that are oil soluble such as A, D, E, and K (rather than water soluble vitamins such as B and C), so consuming the oil with the food will increase the absorption of the oil soluble vitamins.

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