Olive oil is well-known for its health benefits (particularly extra virgin olive oil!). It’s also an unprocessed oil and is suitable for various diets. Many people simply include it in recipes or perhaps drizzled over a salad.
But, others choose to drink olive oil instead. The idea might sound odd, but there are some distinct advantages to doing so. This is even one of the best ways to access all the advantages that olive oil has to offer.
And don’t worry, when I say drinking olive oil, I’m not talking about chugging a glass of the stuff. Instead, you’d be taking a tablespoon or a shot of olive oil. That’s much easier.
Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The benefits of doing so really are worth the effort. Check them out!
1. Olive Oil Can Improve Heart Health
Olive oil is particularly significant for decreasing heart disease risk (1). The oil achieves this in various ways:
- Decreasing blood pressure levels (2,3,4,5)
- Improving the cholesterol profile (6,7,8), including levels of LDL-C (9)
- May reduce the risk of related conditions that act as risk factors, including diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome (10)
- Can improve endothelial function (11)
- Doesn’t negatively affect LDL oxidation (12)
The oil also decreases the risk of dying from heart disease (13). Some of the observed effects come from the olive oil itself, while others are associated with oleic acid or with a diet high in monounsaturated fats.
A particularly impressive study examined more than 7,000 participants in Spain and compared three different diet types:
- Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil
- Mediterranean diet with nuts
- Control diet
The authors found that both versions of the Mediterranean diet resulted in a lower number of cardiovascular events. While both groups saw benefits, the olive oil version of the diet did slightly better (14).
Although the study didn’t focus on olive oil specifically, the conclusions are very relevant.
- The study was larger than most others and followed participants for an average of 4.8 years. Diet-based research studies are rarely ever this long. This makes the results much more reliable than other research.
- It’s clear from the research that a high-fat diet performs better for heart health than a low-fat one, regardless of whether the fat comes from nuts or olive oil.
- The olive oil group did experience better outcomes, suggesting that some benefits are unique to olive oil.
2. It is Considered a Healthy Fat
Fats have a bad reputation in modern society (although, that’s finally changing). In practice, fats can offer many health benefits, especially when your carb intake is low. For example, the site Healthline talks about how monounsaturated fats can improve your health significantly.
For extra virgin olive oil, the fatty acid profile is particularly appealing.
- Around 75% of the fat is monounsaturated. This type of fat has been linked to heart benefits and may reduce cholesterol levels (16).
- Is a rich source of oleic acid (17). This is an omega-9 fatty acid that is particularly good for you. It has various health implications, like reducing obesity risk, decreasing blood pressure levels and even improving mood (18).
- Another compound is oleocanthal, which can help to reduce inflammation (19). There are various other healthy plant-based compounds that may help improve health too (20).
3. May Have Cognitive Benefits
Olive oil has also been linked to cognition and brain health. For one thing, healthy fats are often linked to improved focus and cognition. The antioxidants also help to protect your brain. This is a topic that Be Brain Fit discusses in detail.
A behavioral study in mice suggested that olive oil can lower anxiety, by changing levels of chemicals in the brain (21). Healthy fats have also been linked to decreased depression risk (22). These outcomes are additional evidence for a link between diet and mental health.
One study showed that compounds from olive oil could help interfere with amyloid-beta (Aβ) plaque development. These plaques form in Alzheimer’s disease (23). The compound oleocanthal in olive oil has also been linked to plaque clearance (24).
Much more research is needed. But, the pattern suggests that olive oil may help treat Alzheimer’s disease or potentially decrease the risk of developing it.
4. Drinking Olive Oil for Constipation Relief
Olive oil isn’t a laxative. Instead, it is a gentler way to relieve constipation and make your stools easier to pass. It does this by increasing how much water your stools hold, making them softer and smoothing the lining of your bowels.
There may be other impacts too, such as improved intestinal muscle contraction and increased bile production.
Constipation relief has also been observed in research:
- One study found that olive oil was as effective as mineral oil in reducing constipation (25)
- An observational study discussed a population with high levels of olive oil intake and low levels of constipation (26). The research couldn’t prove cause and effect. But, it’s likely that the olive oil helped decrease the prevalence of constipation.
- A study on patients with kidney disease found that olive oil decreased constipation, even though the study did not focus on the topic (27).
5. Is an Antioxidant
Olive oil has antioxidant properties (28,29). This means it helps fight oxidative damage in the body. That damage is caused by reactive oxygen species. For example, one study found that daily consumption of high-phenol extra virgin olive oil decreased DNA damage in women (29).
6. Decreases Inflammation
Olive oil is a key part of an anti-inflammatory diet. Multiple studies have found that it can decrease inflammation (33,34). This effect was also observed in a meta-analysis that considered outcomes across 30 different studies (35).
The compound oleocanthal may be particularly relevant in fighting inflammation. Some studies suggest that it is stronger at doing so than ibuprofen (36,37). This pattern may be why the Mediterranean diet is also associated with decreased inflammation (38).
Chronic inflammation is a significant area of concern, as it is associated with many diseases and health challenges (39,40). As such, decreasing inflammation may lower disease risk and improve overall health.
7. May Fight Symptoms of Aging
Some researchers feel that the phenolic compounds in olive oil (including oleocanthal) may help to decrease some symptoms of aging and aid in preventing age-related diseases (41).
Such theories are associated with how olive oil can decrease the risk for many diseases and improve various health outcomes (42). The ability to fight oxidation is very relevant – as high oxidation is strongly associated with the aging process (43).
The protective effects of olive oil are most significant when the oil is consumed throughout a person’s life – ideally from a young age (44).
8. May Be Relevant for Diabetes
Olive oil might also help people with diabetes.
One study on this topic looked at the consumption of extra virgin olive oil with a meal. Doing so significantly improved insulin levels and decreased blood glucose levels (compared to a corn oil control group) (45).
9. Improves Your Skin
Olive oil has also been linked to skin improvements. You’ll even find it in various DIY skincare and beauty recipes. But, like with collagen, there are also benefits to taking the olive oil internally.
Many people find that olive oil makes their skin feel smoother and look better. That’s not too surprising – the oil is a good source of vitamin E and antioxidants. These compounds have anti-aging properties.
10. Is Relevant to Cancer
Many studies have linked olive oil (and the compounds in it) to action against cancer. For example, oleocanthal can help promote cancer cell death, while sparing healthy cells (50). The mechanism involved may also be relevant to future cancer treatment (51).
Finally, the other benefits, like antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may help lower the risk of cancer (54).
11. Drinking the Oil is Easy
Most people know that olive oil is healthy. There are also various ways to include it in your diet, including recipes that rely on olive oil and using olive oil for cooking.
But, this isn’t always enough. In fact, many people won't be getting sufficient olive oil to see all of the possible health benefits. After all, you might rely on other cooking oils, like coconut oil, butter or ghee. Olive oil can sometimes change the taste of meals too, which isn’t always a good thing.
Taking your olive oil as a shot instead is faster and easier. The biggest challenge is that the shot may cause a stinging or burning sensation at the back of your throat. This is caused by the compound oleocanthal, which is associated with health benefits.
But, don't worry. The sensation isn't severe and you'll get used to it.
Olive oil is a powerful ingredient. But, to get the most out of it, you need to focus on extra virgin olive oil. This version has the most beneficial compounds from olives and promotes the best health outcomes. Thankfully, there are many good brands to choose from.
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