Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

There are a wide range of well-evidenced health benefits related to Extra Virgin Olive Oil:

  • Prevention of Overall Mortality
  • Prevention of CVD, Coronary Heart Disease, and Myocardial Infarction
  • Prevention of Diabetes or improved Glycaemic Control in existing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
  • Reduction in Overall Cancer Incidence
  • Prevention of Neurodegenerative Diseases
  • Prevention of Mood Disorders
  • Reversal of Fatty Liver Disease
  • Prevention of Overweight and Obesity

Olives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil as the main source of healthy fat, with additional powerful bioactive compounds, is central to the Mediterranean Diet. There is increasing evidence describing the unique and powerful role of Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the heart of the numerous regional variations of the Mediterranean Diet. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a crucial enabler of a diet rich in vegetables, making a plant predominant diet enjoyable and sustainable.

The Mediterranean style diet is now recommended by governments, scientists and health professionals as an example of a nutritional gold standard with a considerable body of evidence to support very significant beneficial effects on health and wellness.

The Mediterranean Diet is a nutritional recommendation based on the traditional dietary patterns of Southern Europe. This diet is characterised by the high consumption of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits and vegetables; moderate to high consumption of fish and dairy products; and low consumption of non-fish meat. In 2013, UNESCO listed the Mediterranean diet as part of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

Evidence shows that people who consume a Mediterranean style diet enjoy various health benefits


Evidence Table: Mediterranean Diet, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and chronic disease.

Prevention of Overall Mortality
Prevention of CVD, Coronary Heart Disease, and Myocardial Infarction
Prevention of Diabetes or improved Glycemic Control in existing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Reduction in Overall Cancer Incidence
Prevention of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Prevention of Mood Disorders
Reversal of Fatty Liver Disease
Prevention of Overweight and Obesity

Reduced overall mortality 1-3

Reduced mortality from CVD 1-3

Reduced mortality from cancer 1-3

Reduced risk of primary and secondary CVD via reduction in associated risk factors such as:

  • ↓ blood pressure 1, 3-13
  • improved blood lipid profile (↓Triglycerides, Total Cholesterol and Low-Density Lipoprotein-oxidation; ↑High Density Lipoproteins) 3-5, 7-9, 14-17
  • ↓ in endothelial dysfunction 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10
  • ↓ Body Mass Index (BMI) 1, 4
  • ↓ Waist Circumference (WC) 1, 4, 18

Reduced inflammation:

  • overall 30% reduction in CVD mortality with Mediterranean Diet and EVOO vs low fat diet 5
  • ↓ oxidative stress and inflammation 1, 4-6, 8, 9
  • ↓ incidence of T2DM 6, 19, 20
  • ↓ body weight 18
  • ↑ glucose metabolism in existing T2DM 18, 20-22
  • ↓ fasting glucose and insulin 20, 23, 24
  • ↑ insulin sensitivity 20, 23-25
  • ↑ vasodilation 22
  • ↓ HbA1c in an Australian population with existing T2DM (7.1% to 6.8%); 55% relative risk reduction of developing diabetes 21
  • Convincing evidence of a reduction in breast cancer specifically and overall cancer incidence or mortality 26
  • Suggestive evidence for a reduction in gastric, pancreatic, liver and head/neck cancer 26
  • Improved cognitive function in cognitively healthy participants, and 13% reduction in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease 27
  • Reduction in severity of depression in individuals with existing depression 28-29
  • Reduced liver steatosis and improved insulin sensitivity in an insulin-resistant in individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, independent of weight loss 30
  • Positive relationship between adherence to Mediterranean Diet and weight management/BMI 31-44

The UC Davis Olive Centre have prepared two reports relating to Olive Oil for health, relating to blood lipids and blood pressure.13, 16

‘The UC Davis Olive Center is a self-funded university/industry coalition that seeks to do for olives what UC Davis did for wine. The world-renowned center brings together nearly 60 UC faculty members, research specialists and farm advisors who address the research and education needs of California olive growers and processors. The center also collaborates with institutions worldwide.’

These reports can be accessed below:



  1. Dinu M, Pagliai G, Casini A et al. Mediterranean diet and multiple health outcomes: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of observational studies and randomised trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017;27(1):doi:10.1038/ejcn.2017.58.
  2. Sofi F, Cesari F, Abbate R, Gensini G, et al. Adherence to Mediterranean diet and health status: meta-analysis. BMJ. 2008;337: org/10.1136/bmj.a1344.
  3. Sofi F, Abbate R, Gensini G et al. Accruing evidence on benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on health: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(5):1189–96.
  4. Widmer R, Flammer A, Lerman L et al. The Mediterranean diet, it’s components, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Med. 2015;128(3):229–38.
  5. Estruch R, Ros E, Sala-Salvao J, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet supplemented with Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts. N Engl J Med. 2018;378(25):e34(1-14).
  6. Tresserra-Rimbau A, Rimm E, Medina-Ramon A et al. Polyphenol intake and mortality risk: a re-analysis of the PREDIMED trial. BMC Med. 2014;12: doi: 1186/1741-7015-12-77.
  7. Dontas A, Zerefos N, Panagiotakos D et al. Mediterranean diet and prevention of coronary heart disease in the elderly. Clin Interv Aging. 2007;2(1):109– 16.
  8. Fito M, Cladellas M, de la Torre R, et al. Antioxidant effect of virgin olive oil in patients with stable coronary heart disease: a randomized, crossover, controlled, clinical trial. Atherosclerosis. 2005;181:149–58.
  9. Moreno-Luna R, Munoz-Hernandez R, Miranda ML, et al. Olive oil polyphenols decrease blood pressure and improve endothelial function in young women with mild hypertension. Am J Hypertens. 2012;25:1299–304.
  10. Widmer R, Freund M, Flammer A et al. Beneficial effects of polyphenol-rich olive oil in patients with early atherosclerosis. Eur J Nutr. 2013;52:1223–31.
  11. Ferrara L, Raimondi A, d’Episcopo L, et al. Olive oil and reduced need for antihypertensive medications. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:837–42.
  12. Perona J, Canizares J, Montero E, et al. Virgin olive oil reduces blood pressure in hypertensive elderly subjects. Clin Nutr. 2004;23:1113–21.
  13. UC Davis Olive Centre. Olive oil as medicine: the effect on blood pressure. UC Davis.
  14. Hernaez A, Fernandez-Castillejo S, Ferries M et al. Olive oil biophenols enhance high-density lipoprotein function in humans: a randomized controlled trial. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology Journal of the American Heart Association. 2014;34:2115–9.
  15. Covas M, Nyyssonen K, Poulsen H, et al. The effect of biophenols in olive oil on heart disease risk factors: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2006;145:333– 41.
  16. UC Davis Olive Centre. Olive oil as medicine: the effect on blood lipids and lipoproteins.
  17. Aguilera C, Mesa M, Ramirez-Tortosa, et al. Sunflower oil does not protect against LDL oxidation as virgin olive oil does in patients with peripheral vascular disease. Clin Nutr. 2004;23:673–81.
  18. Lasa A, Miranda J, Bullo M, et al. Comparative effect of two Mediterranean diets versus a low-fat diet on glycaemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014;68:762–72.
  19. Salas-Salvado J, Bullo M, Estruch R et al. Prevention of diabetes with Mediterranean diets: a subgroup analysis of a randomized control trial. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(1):1–10.
  20. Salas-Salvado J, Bullo M, Babio, N et al. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with the Mediterranean diet: results of the PREDIMED-Reus nutrition intervention randomized trial. Diabetes Care. 2011;34(1):14–9.
  21. Itsiopoulos C, Brazionis L, Kaimakamis M, et al. Can the Mediterranean diet lower HbA1c in type 2 diabetes? Results from a randomized cross-over study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011;21(9):740–7.
  22. Ajala O, English P, Pinkey J. Systematic review and meta-analysis of different dietary approaches to the management of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(3):505– 16.
  23. Ryan M, McInerney D, Owens D, et al. Diabetes and the Mediterranean diet: a beneficial effect of oleic acid on insulin sensitivity, adipocyte glucose transport and endothelium-dependent vasoreactivity. QJM. 2000;93:85–91.
  24. Violi F, Loffredo L, Pignatelli P et al. Extra virgin olive oil is associated with improved post-prandial blood glucose and LDL cholesterol in healthy subjects. Nutr Diabetes. 2015;5:doi: 10.1038/nutd.2015.23.
  25. Farnetti S, Malandrino N, Luciani D, et al. Food fried in extra-virgin olive oil improves postprandial insulin response in obese, insulin-resistant women. J Med Food. 2011;14:316–21.
  26. Escrich E, Moral R, Grau L, et al. Molecular mechanisms of the effects of olive oil and other dietary lipids on cancer. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007;51:1279–92.
  27. Valls-Pedret C, Sala-Vila A, Serra-Mir A, et al. Mediterranean diet and age-related cognitive decline: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(7):1084–1103.
  28. Jacka F, O’Neil A, Opie R, et al. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Med. 2017; 15(1):23.
  29. Opie R, O’Neil A, Jacka F, et al. A modified Mediterranean intervention for adults with major depression: dietary protocol and feasibility data from the SMILES trial. Nutr Neurosci. 2017;19:1–15.
  30. Ryan M, Itsiopoulos C, Thodis T, et al. The Mediterranean diet improves hepatic steatosis and insulin sensitivity in individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. J Hepatol. 2013;59(1):138–43.
  31. Schroder H, Marrugat J, Vila J, et al. Adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet is inversely associated with body mass index and obesity in a Spanish population. J Nutr. 2004;134:3355–61.
  32. Panagiotakos DB, Chrysohoou C, Piassavas C, et al. Association between the prevalence of obesity and adherence to the Mediterranean diet: the ATTICA study. Nutr. 2006;22:449–56.
  33. Shai I, Schwarzfuchs D, Henkin Y, et al. Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet. New Eng J Med. 2008;359:229–41.
  34. Trichopoulou, A. Naska A, Orfanos P, et al. Mediterranean diet in relation to body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio: the Greek European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;82(5): 935–40.
  35. Sánchez-Villegas A, Bes-Rastrollo M, Martinez-Gonzalez M, et al. Adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern and weight gain in a follow-up study: the SUN cohort. Int J Obes. 2005;30(2):350–8.
  36. Flynn MM, Reinert SE. Comparing an olive oil-enriched diet to a standard lower-fat diet for weight loss in breast cancer survivors: a pilot study. J Womens Health. 2010;19:1155–61.
  37. Bes-Rastrollo M, Sanchez-Villegas A, de la Fuente C, et al. Olive oil consumption and weight change: the SUN prospective cohort study. Lipids. 2006;41:249–56.
  38. Soriguer F, Rojo-Martínez G, Goday A et al. Olive oil has a beneficial effect on impaired glucose regulation and other cardiometabolic risk factors. study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013;67:911–6.
  39. Soriguer F, Almaraz m, et al. Incidence of obesity is lower in persons who consume olive oil. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(11):1371–4.
  40. Mennella I, Savarese M, Ferracane R et al. Oleic acid content of a meal promotes oleoylethanolamide response and reduces subsequent energy intake in human. Food Funct. 2015;6(1):204–10.
  41. Haro-Mora, J, Garcia-Escobar E, Alcazar P, et al. Children whose diet contained olive oil had a lower likelihood of increasing their body mass index Z-score over 1 year. Eur J Endocrinol. 2011;165(3):435–9.
  42. Perez-Martinez P, Garcia-Rios A, Degaldo-Lista J, et al. Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil and obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus. Curr Pharm Des. 2011;17(8):769–77.
  43. Razquin C, Marinez J, Martinez-Gonzalez M, et al. A 3 years follow-up of a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil is associated with high plasma antioxidant capacity and reduced body weight gain. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(12):1387–93.
  44. Romaguera D, Norat T, Mouw N, et al. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower abdominal adiposity in European men and women. J Nutr. 2009;139(9): 1728–37.

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