5 PROVEN BENEFITS OF OLIVE OIL

There are many disagreements about fats in the diet.

However, pretty much everyone agrees that olive oil, especially extra virgin, is good for you.

Here are 11 health benefits of olive oil that are supported by scientific research.

1. Olive Oil Is Rich in Healthy Monounsaturated Fats

Olive oil is the natural oil extracted from olives, the fatty fruit of the olive tree.

About 24% of the oil is saturated fats and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (1).

But the predominant (73%) fatty acid in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which is extremely healthy.

Oleic acid is believed to help reduce inflammation, and may have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer (2, 3, 4, 5).

Monounsaturated fats in extra virgin olive oil are also quite resistant to high heat, making it a healthy choice for cooking.

BOTTOM LINE: Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. This fatty acid is believed to have many beneficial effects, and is a healthy choice for cooking.

2. Olive Oil Contains Large Amounts of Antioxidants

Extra virgin olive oil is fairly nutritious.

Apart from its beneficial fatty acids, it contains modest amounts of Vitamins E and K.

But olive oil is also loaded with powerful antioxidants.

These antioxidants are biologically active and may help fight serious diseases (6, 7).

This includes antioxidants that can fight inflammation and help prevent the cholesterol in our blood from becoming oxidized, both crucial steps in the heart disease process (8, 9).

BOTTOM LINE: Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants, some of which have powerful biological effects.

3. Olive Oil Has Strong Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Chronic inflammation is thought to be among the leading drivers of many diseases.

This includes cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer's, arthritis and even obesity.

Olive oil can reduce inflammation, which may be one of the main reasons for its health benefits.

The main anti-inflammatory effects are mediated by the antioxidants. Key among them is oleocanthal, which has been shown to work similarly to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug (10).

Some scientists estimate that the oleocanthal in 50 ml (3.4 tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil has a similar effectiveness as 10% of the adult dosage of ibuprofen (11).

There are also studies suggesting that oleic acid itself, the main fatty acid in olive oil, can reduce levels of important inflammatory markers like CRP (2, 3).

One study also showed that olive oil antioxidants can inhibit some genes and proteins that drive inflammation (12).

BOTTOM LINE:Olive oil contains nutrients that can fight inflammation. This includes oleic acid, as well as the antioxidant oleocanthal.

4. Olive Oil May Help Prevent Strokes

Stroke is caused by a disturbance of blood flow to the brain, either due to a blood clot or bleeding.

In developed nations, stroke is the second most common cause of death, right after heart disease (13).

The relationship between olive oil and the risk of stroke has been studied extensively.

A large review study that included over 841,000 subjects found that olive oil was the only source of monounsaturated fat associated with a reduced risk of stroke and heart disease (14).

These findings are supported by another large review study, this one with 140,000 participants. Researchers found that those who consumed olive oil were at a much lower risk of stroke (15).

BOTTOM LINE:There are many large studies showing that people who consume olive oil have a much lower risk of developing stroke, the second biggest killer in developed countries.

5. Olive Oil Is Protective Against Heart Disease

Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world (16).

Observational studies conducted a few decades ago showed that heart disease was rare around the Mediterranean Sea.

This led to extensive research on the Mediterranean diet, which has now been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease (17, 18).

Extra virgin olive oil is one of the key features of this diet, and protects against heart disease via numerous mechanisms (19).

It lowers inflammation, protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, improves the function of the lining of the blood vessels, and may help prevent unwanted blood clotting (20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25).

Interestingly, it has also been shown to lower blood pressure, which is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease and premature death. In one study, olive oil reduced the need for blood pressure meds by 48% (26, 27, 28).

The truth is that dozens, if not hundreds, of studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil has powerful benefits for the heart.

If you have heart disease, a family history of heart disease, or any other major risk factor, then you might want to consider including plenty of extra virgin olive oil in your diet.

BOTTOM LINE:Olive oil has numerous benefits for heart health. It lowers blood pressure, protects LDL particles from oxidation, and has beneficial effects on many other risk factors.