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Olive Oil: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and More!

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2 more

Introduction:

Olive (Olea europaea L.) is a small tree native to tropical and mildly temperate regions of the world that belongs to the Oleaceae family. The tree, famous for the olive, is commercially important in the Mediterranean region as a primary supplier of olive oil. 1

The olive tree has long been used for possible medical and nutritional purposes. Olive leaf extracts might have been used to promote health. The high content of fatty acids and functional bioactive compounds such as tocopherols, carotenoids, phospholipids, and phenolics with diverse biological activities are primarily responsible for olive oil’s potential health benefits. These components also contribute to the distinct flavour and taste of olive oil. Similarly, they have been revered as a well-known folk remedy for fever and some tropical disorders such as malaria. Due to their bitterness, olives are rarely utilised in their natural form; nevertheless, they are ingested in one of two forms: oil or table olives.1

olive oil uses, benefits and side effects

The olive oil is obtained from olives (the fruits of Olea europaea L. tree). It is a chief constituent of the Mediterranean diet and is currently gaining popularity as a component of a healthy diet among consumers in northern Europe, the USA, Canada, and other nations. Olive oil is produced almost entirely in Spain, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco, and Portugal.2

Virgin olive oil is produced by mechanical procedures. Ordinary virgin olive oil, fine virgin olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil are the three edible grades of virgin olive oil. 2Extra virgin olive oil comprises two chemical compounds: triglycerides (97 to 99 %) and minor components (1 to 3 %).3

Did you know?

  • Olive oil has been associated with a lower risk of stroke in women. Source:ncbi
  • Olive oil consumption has been shown to improve blood sugar control in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Source:ncbi
  • Olive oil may help protect against cognitive decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Source: alz.org
  • Olive oil has been shown to have a positive effect on bone health and may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Source:ncbi

Nutritional Value of Olive Oil:

The nutritional content of 100 g of olive oil is:4

NutrientAmount
Total fat93.7 g
Fatty acids15.4 g
Stigmasterol1.02 mg
Campesterol5.68 mg
 Beta-sitosterol126 mg
Beta-sitostanol2.55 mg
Delta-5-avenasterol23.1 mg
Table depicting the nutritional value of olive oil4

Also Read: Castor Oil – Uses, Benefits, Precautions & More!

Studies say that extra virgin olive oil may help people living with rheumatoid arthritis. Extra virgin olive oil is known to be beneficial due to its anti-inflammatory properties. The long-term, progressive, multi-step, and complicated process of rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in a number of joints, causing severe swelling and stiffness in the joints as well as bone and cartilage degradation and joint degeneration and the use of this oil may help ease the inflammation and stiffness.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Properties of Olive oil:

Various properties of olive oil are listed below.

  • It might be an antioxidant
  • It might have an anti-inflammatory activity
  • It might have an anti-microbial (acts against micro-organisms) action
  • It may have an anti-atherogenic (inhibits the formation of plaques in arteries) property
  • It might have an anti-tumour potential
  • It might have an anti-platelet aggregation activity
  • It might help in blood pressure-lowering
  • It might act as an immunity enhancer
  • It might be an anti-allergic agent
  • It might have hypolipidemic (lipid-lowering effect) effect 1
  • It might help in wound healing3
  • It might have a kidney-protective property
  • It might have heart-protective action4
  • It might have a liver-protective activity
  • It might have a brain-protective activity4

Also Read: Ragi – Nutrition, Benefits, Side Effects & More!

Potential Uses of Olive Oil:

Potential use of olive oil for infections:

Oleuropein, a phytoconstituent in olive, has antibacterial properties against bacteria, including mycoplasma. Furthermore, the phenolic chemicals in olive oil might degrade bacterial membranes, hence showing antibacterial actions. Several authors also claim that oleuropein might act against toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus and might have an antiviral effect against herpes and hepatitis viruses. Oleuropein might also have an antiviral impact against the parainfluenza virus. Furthermore, the potential antiviral activity of olive leaf extract against the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome has been proposed.3

The polyphenolic content of olive extract may be linked to a notable antibacterial action. Malaria infections may have been curbed with oral dosages of olive leaves. Studies have proven polyphenols may inhibit the development and reproduction of Bacillus cereus, Klebsiella pneumonia, Salmonella typhi and Escherichia coli. Olive oil has been demonstrated to have potential antibacterial properties for intestinal and respiratory infections.5 However, its use needs to be confirmed by further research.

Potential use of olive oil for the liver:

Olive oil has long been the main ingredient of the Mediterranean diet. Oleic acid and polyphenols have been shown to protect the liver in various animal studies and cell culture studies. These olive oil components have also been demonstrated to be helpful for different hepatic diseases, such as liver ballooning (increased liver size) and liver steatosis (fat accumulation in the liver), and might aid against drug-induced liver damage.5

Through the potential antioxidant effect of its polyphenolic contents, extra virgin olive oil might decrease inflammation, may reduce the risk of liver damage, and might slow the advancement of steatohepatitis (fat deposition in the liver). Researchers found that consuming extra virgin olive oil might reduce liver tissue damage in animal models. Furthermore, the combined therapy of olive oil and camel milk in animal models demonstrated possible liver protective effects in drug-induced liver toxicity due to their potent antioxidant action.5 However, liver diseases can be serious and need proper diagnosis and treatment by a professional.

Potential use of olive oil for cancer:

Olive oil’s phenolic antioxidants might help against the damaging effects of free radicals and the consequent alterations in cellular structures. Scientists investigated the impact of olive oil on colon cancer. Their findings suggested that the presence of antioxidants, phenolic compounds, and fatty acids in olive oil might play an essential role in lowering the risk of colon cancer.3

Studies have investigated the effect of hydroxytyrosol (antioxidant present in virgin olive oil) on cancer cell growth, apoptosis (cell death), and cell cycle. The findings support that hydroxytyrosol might help against cancer and may help trigger cancer cell death and stop the cell cycle. Olive oil contains vitamin E, which might protect the skin from the sun. As a result, it might help against premature ageing and skin cancer.3 However, cancer is a serious disease and must be diagnosed and treated by a doctor.

Potential use of olive oil for the kidney:

As dietary virgin olive oil and olive leaf extract might help protect kidneys from damage in animal models, it is well known that virgin olive oil is helpful against the progression of kidney damage generated by various chemical agents. It was found that a combination of olive oil and naringenin containing drugs might curb kidney damage in rats by potentially increasing renal function and lowering serum urea and creatinine concentrations.5

Another study found that extra virgin olive oil might help reduce the chances of kidney damage in drug-exposed animal models while also improving the antioxidant and health status of the animals. Furthermore, the administration of extra virgin olive oil significantly lowered inflammatory markers, uric acid, creatinine, and urea levels in the serum of an animal model. According to studies, the control of kidney damage by olive oil consumption was due to its phenolic components, which acted as potent lipid peroxidation inhibitors.5

Potential use of olive oil for wounds:

Olive oil can act as a barrier between open wounds and the surroundings. Furthermore, olive oil might speed up wound healing by sterilising the wound surface and helping fight against infections.3 However, the effects of olive oil need more scientific backup in the form of research.     

Potential use of olive oil for the heart:

Olive oil might have the following actions like increasing high-density lipoprotein, decreasing low-density lipoprotein, reducing cholesterol and triglycerides, and decreasing cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein ratio.3

Nearly two-thirds of people with diabetes die as a result of heart disease. One of the significant risk factors for heart disease in diabetics is increased blood glucose and lipids levels. According to scientists, replacing solid vegetable oil with olive oil in the diet of diabetic patients might be more efficient than sunflower oil against heart diseases due to the favourable effect of olive oil on blood glucose and lipid parameters.3 Their use for this purposes is not yet confirmed. Moreover, you should always consult a doctor for serious conditions such as heart diseases.

Potential use of olive oil for the brain:

Olive oil constituents like fatty acid and polyphenols may be absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, and some penetrate specific brain areas. Polyphenols and vitamin E have considerable antioxidant effects on accumulated free radicals in the brain, neutralising them in the case of ischaemia (inadequate blood supply to an organ or tissue).3

Ischaemia, hypoxia (low oxygen level), and free radicals can harm the brain. Consumption of olive oil following ischaemia can reduce brain cell death and protect the brain from toxic substances. According to the findings of one study, pre-treatment with virgin olive oil resulted in reduced levels of cell death and, as a result, lower levels of stroke in the studied animal model. This was most likely due to changes in the brain lipid composition.3

Olive oil might have a favourable effect on Parkinson’s disease (brain disorder) because the polyphenols in olive oil which can affect a cellular mechanism involved in the disease’s development and progression. According to laboratory experiments, oleuropein (a component of olive oil) might have the potential to diminish cell damage, apoptosis (cell death), and oxidative stress, suggesting the brain-protective effect of oleuropein.5

Potential use of olive oil for intestines:

A protective effect of extra virgin olive oil’s polyphenols against ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel disease) progression has been studied. The extract of olive oil polyphenols was able to inhibit the production of hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide triggered by oxysterols (a by-product of cholesterol synthesis) and preserve cellular antioxidant levels in the intestines. Furthermore, olive oil’s phenols may have blocked the key inflammatory processes driven by oxysterols.6 However, more research is required to prove these claims and potential benefits of olive oil for human health.

Though there are studies that show the potential uses of olive oil in various conditions, but these are insufficient and there is a need of further studies to establish the true extent of benefits of olive oil on human health. 

Also Read: Karisalankanni – Uses, Benefits, Side effects and More!

How to Use Olive Oil?

Olive oil can be used as:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fine virgin olive oil
  • Ordinary virgin olive oil
  • Olive-pomace oils (non-edible)
  • Lampante olive oil (non-edible)4

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.  

Also Read: Castor Oil For Eyelashes: A Research-Based Guide On Growth And Care

Side Effects

There are no major side effects of olive oil reported by far. If you experience any side effects, seek immediate medical help from your doctor who has prescribed it to you. They will be the best guide for providing proper treatment to overcome side effects.

From my knowledge, the components of extra virgin olive oil may help preserve the neurological system and may be helpful against sadness and anxiety, according to a 2013 research done on mice. Researchers recently discovered that people who ingested trans-fats, an unhealthy lipid prevalent in fast food and pre-packaged baked products, were more likely to experience sadness than persons who consumed unsaturated fats like olive oil.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Also Read: Unlocking The Secrets Of Argan Oil For Hair: A Comprehensive Review

Precautions to Take With Olive Oil:

The safety studies of olive oil on pregnant and breastfeeding women have not been documented. Likewise, there is no information available on the safety studies of olive oil in children. Therefore, it should only be taken under the supervision and advice of a physician.

Interactions With Other Drugs:

There is not much information available on how olive oil interacts with other medications. Hence, patients should consult a doctor before taking olive oil if they take any other drug or supplement.

Also Read: Black Salt: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects, Precautions & More!

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is olive oil?

It is an oil obtained from the Olea europaea L. tree fruits.2

Is olive oil good for hair?

Olive oil might be good for hair. According to a study, the carotenoids in olive oil helps in treating the internal region (cortex) of the hair fibre, hence it might help strengthen hair.6 However, concrete evidence is needed in the form of more research.

Is olive oil good for the face?

Olive oil might be good for the face. The concomitant use of other oils such as buckthorn oil with olive oil might have positive effects on the skin.7

Is olive oil good for health?

Olive oil might have positive effects on health. The high content of fatty acids and functional bioactive compounds such as tocopherols, carotenoids, phospholipids, and phenolics with diverse biological activities are primarily responsible for olive oil’s potential health benefits.1 However, more research is required to ascertain these claims.

What are the types of olive oil?

Olive oil is of various types: virgin olive oil (edible), extra virgin olive oil (edible), refined olive oil (edible), olive-pomace oils (non-edible) and lampante olive oil (non-edible).4

What is the use of olive oil?

It is a principal constituent of the Mediterranean diet.2 Apart from its nutritional value, it might have potential use for its potential antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-tumour, anti-platelet aggregation, blood pressure-lowering, immunity enhancing, anti-allergic, hypolipidemic, wound healing, kidney-protective, heart-protective, liver-protective and brain-protective activities.1,3,4 However, more research is required to prove these possible effects of olive oil on human health.

Can olive oil be used for cooking?

Olive oil is used for cooking. It is commonly used in food preparations such as salad oil, cooking oil, frying and pasta sauces.1

Can extra virgin olive oil be used for cooking?

Yes, extra virgin olive oil is used for cooking. Extra virgin olive oil, fine virgin olive oil, and ordinary virgin olive oil are the three edible grades of virgin olive oil.2

Is olive oil good for cholesterol?

Olive oil might help lower blood cholesterol levels. Consuming olive oil might lead to a reduction in cholesterol levels. 3 However, more research is required to prove these effects.

Is olive oil good for ulcerative colitis?

Yes, olive oil might be helpful for ulcerative colitis. The polyphenols of the extract of olive oil might inhibit the production of hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide and might preserve cellular antioxidant levels in the intestine.6 However, more research is needed to ascertain such claims.

Also Read: Unravelling the Truth: Is Olive Oil Good for You?

References:

  1. Ghanbari R, Anwar F, Alkharfy KM, Gilani AH, Saari N. Valuable nutrients and functional bioactives in different parts of olive (Olea europaea L.)-a review. Int J Mol Sci. 2012; 13(3): 3291-3340. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22489153/
  2. Boskou DC. Olive oil. Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition) 2003: 4252-4260. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B012227055X01347X
  3. Yousefi Z, Rezaeigolestani M, Hashemi M. Biological Properties of Olive Oil. J Hum Environ Health Promot. 2018; 4(2): 50-54. Available from: https://oaji.net/articles/2019/4672-1562994176.pdf
  4. Bilal R, Liu C, Zhao H, Wang Y, Farag M, Alagawany M et al. Olive Oil: Nutritional Applications, Beneficial Health Aspects and its Prospective Application in Poultry Production. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2021;12. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/748608/nutrients
  5. Bilal RM, Liu C, Zhao H, Wang Y, Farag MR, Alagawany M, et al. Olive oil: nutritional applications, beneficial health aspects and its prospective application in poultry production. Front Pharmacol. 2021;12. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2021.723040/full
  6. Leite MG, Campos PM. Development and efficacy evaluation of hair care formulations containing vegetable oils and silicone. Int J Phytocosmet Nat Ingre. 2018; 5(1):9. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332582347_Development_and_efficacy_evaluation_of_hair_care_formulations_containing_vegetable_oils_and_silicone
  7. Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017; 19(1): 70. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/

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