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Extra Virgin Olive Oil: The Magic Pill for Healthy Living?

By Dr. O. H. Okoye, MD, MBA, MSEpi
August 7, 2015
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: The Magic Pill for Healthy Living? image

The tremendous benefits of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) cannot be overstated. Most significantly it has long been associated with keeping the heart healthy.1 This is one of the many reasons why it is recommended for Paleo, and well living. Scientific studies have already shown the possible link between EVOO and stroke prevention.2 EVOO has also been shown to play a key role in preventing diabetes, through some unclear mechanisms. Based on this, do you need any more reasons why you need to cook with EVOO?

Well actually to a recent study published in the prominent Nature journal, there is another reason to add to the list. Researchers in Italy recently described how EVOO improves post-prandial (after eating a meal) blood glucose, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c).1 Basically individuals who ate meals prepared with EVOO experienced greatly improved levels of lower blood glucose, and cholesterol, when compared to those with corn oil. Now before buying stock in EVOO companies, it is important to understand the whys, whats and hows.

The Study

In the study of 25 subjects, there were two objectives using a Mediterranean-type meal, with the first one including extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), while the second used corn oil. After consumption of the meal with EVOO, participants experienced significantly decreased levels of blood glucose, dipeptidyl-peptidase-4 (DPP-4) protein, lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), oxidized LD (ox-LDL)L, as well as higher levels of insulin, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP).1 In the second part of the study, EVOO was shown to lead to better improvement in glycemic and lipid profile compared to corn oil. The meal with EVOO compared to the one with corn oil resulted in significantly smaller increase of glucose, DPP-4 protein and activity, as well as increased levels of insulin, and GLP-1. Additionally, eating meals with EVOO resulted in lower amounts of LDL-C and ox-LDL.

What Does This All Mean?

Well, while the Mediterranean diet does not agree with all the principles of a Paleo diet, the study insinuates that the wonderful health benefits attributed to the Mediterranean diet, stem from the intake of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). These benefits include antiatheroslerotic effect, which preventing the development of stroke, and the start of new-onset diabetes.3 The speculation was that EVOO contains antioxidants, which are beneficial for oxidative stress, given evidence of a link between oxidative stress and beta cells dysfunction.4 Since beta cells are responsible for the release of insulin in the pancreas, then this dysfunction may result in diabetes. In addition oxidative stress is thought to activate DPP-4, ultimately decreasing the release of insulin. The latter helps decrease levels of blood glucose, so this further compounds the issue with oxidative stress, and increased blood glucose.

Decreasing The Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Cancer, and More

Now this is where it gets even more interesting. In addition to atherosclerosis, stroke and diabetes, oxidative stress, the latter being the overproduction of free oxygen radical molecules. Its toxicity is linked with other neurodegenerative diseases such as cancer, aging damage, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and other cardiovascular diseases. Does this mean that extra virgin olive oil could decrease the risk of developing a wide myriad of conditions? Possibly.

Several studies have shown that oleuropein aglycone, which is a natural phenol widely found in EVOO, is protective and therapeutic against Alzheimer’s disease.5 Furthermore other studies also indicate that this same compound could provide protective and therapeutic effects against a number of conditions including obesity, non-alcoholic hepatitis and type 2 diabetes.5 Additionally studies have shown neuroprotective effects against other critical conditions such as cerebral ischemia, multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy and spinal cord injury.6 HIV has an increased inflammatory process, and so bring on the EVOO! It only makes sense why we recommend extra virgin olive oil.

In summary, the truth is there is no magic pill for healthy living. There is a scientific basis behind the extra virgin olive oil recommendation, and the long list of potential benefits keeps growing. Preventative care is always the best form of medicine, and you can play your part in making the right and healthy choice.


[1] Violi, F., Loffredo, L., Pignatelli, P., Angelico, F., Bartimoccia, S., C, N., . . . Carnevela, R. (2015, June 2015). Extra virgin olive oil use is associated with improved post-prandial blood glucose and LDL cholesterol in healthy subjects. Nutrition & Diabetes, 5(e172). doi:10.1038/nutd.2015.23

[2] Melnick, M. (2011, June 16). Can Olive Oil Help Prevent Stroke? Retrieved from Time.

[3] Martínez-González, M., Dominguez, L., & Miguel Delgado, R. (2014). Olive oil consumption and risk of CHD and/or stroke: a meta-analysis of case–control, cohort and intervention studies. British Journal of Nutrition, 112(2), 248-259.

[4] Uttara, B., Singh, A., Zamboni, P., & Mahajan, R. (2009). Oxidative Stress and Neurodegenerative Diseases: A Review of Upstream and Downstream Antioxidant Therapeutic Options. Current Neuropharmacology, 7(1), 65-74.

[5] Luccarini, I., Grossi, C., Rigassi, S., Coppi, E., Pugliese, A., Pantano, D., . . . Casamenti, F. (2015). Oleuropein aglycone protects against pyroglutamylated-3 amyloid-ß toxicity: biochemical, epigenetic and functional correlate. Neurobiol Aging, 36(2).

[6] Khalatbary, A. (2013). Olive oil phenols and neuroprotection. Nutritional Neuroscience, 243-249. Retrieved Aug 5, 2015, from //

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