Answer:

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated "healthy" fats (due to its high concentration of oleic acid) and, depending on the oil, may be rich in antioxidant polyphenols. Olive oil can help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and control insulin levels in the body. It may also reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.

Here we'll discuss some of the details drawn from ConsumerLab.com's Extra Virgin Olive Oils Review, which includes our Top Picks among extra virgin olive oils.

Health Benefits
Safety
Quality
Healthy Cooking

Health Benefits

Olive Oil and Cardiovascular Disease:

Limited research suggests replacing some saturated fat in the diet with olive oil may help lower risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The FDA allows pure olive oil products to claim:

"Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day." (FDA 2004)

For example, one observational study found that the risk of heart attack in men and women was 82% lower for those who regularly consumed about 4 tablespoons of olive oil per day, compared to those who consumed less than a half tablespoon per day (Fernandez-Jarne Int J Epidemiol 2002).

In a large study of men and women at high risk for cardiovascular disease, those who consumed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with 4 or more tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil per day had a 30% lower risk heart attack, stroke or dying of heart disease after five years compared to a control group who consumed a similar diet (but which was somewhat lower in fat) and who were discouraged from consuming more than 2 tablespoons of olive oil per day (Estruch, N Engl J Med 2013).

A small, 6-month study among men and women with mild to moderate high blood pressure found that those who consumed several tablespoons of olive oil (4 tablespoons for men, 3 tablespoons for women) and slightly reduced their intake of saturated fat were able to reduce their dosage of blood pressure lowering medication by 48% compared to those who instead, consumed safflower oil (Ferrara, JAMA Int Med 2000).

Another small clinical trial suggested that the type of olive oil may matter. A study in healthy men compared olive oil high in antioxidant polyphenols (366 mg/kg or ppm) vs. one low in polyphenols (2.7 mg/kg). For three weeks the men consumed a little less than 2 tablespoons per day of one of the oils. Consuming the high polyphenol olive oil, LDL "bad" cholesterol particles decreased by 11.9%. Consuming the low polyphenol olive oil actually increased small LDL cholesterol particles. The study did not include a placebo (Hernaez, J Nutr 2015). Generally, extra virgin oils contain the highest levels of polyphenols -- about 100 to as much as 500 ppm (Garcia, Eur Food Res Technol 2003), although oils with levels of about 400 or higher may be very bitter (Agbiolab).

A 3-month study in which extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) (25 mL, or about 5 teaspoonfuls, per day) was substituted for other cooking oils in a typical American diet in obese older adults in Boston found that it reduced blood pressure (systolic blood pressure decreased 6 mmHg on average) and tended to increase HDL "good" cholesterol. In addition, increased oleic acid levels in the blood were found to be associated with increases in IL-2 production (suggesting improved immune function, although not an anti-inflammatory effect) (Rozati, Nutr Metab (Lond) 2015).

Lower Risk of Cancer With Olive Oil:

A study of postmenopausal women in Spain found that eating a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil (extra virgin; 1 liter per week for each woman and her family) for about 5 years was associated with a relatively lower risk of breast cancer (1.1 cases per thousand women) in comparison to 2.9 cases per thousand among for women only advised to follow a low fat diet. Eating a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts (30 grams per day) also showed some risk reduction (1.8 cases per thousand women), but, unlike with olive oil, this was not statistically significant (JAMA Int Med 2015).

Observational studies have also found an association between higher olive oil intake and a reduced risk of colorectal cancer; it is has been proposed that olive oil might slow the process of healthy intestinal tissue from becoming cancerous, although this remains only a theory (Stoneham, J Epidemiol Community Health 2000; Pampaloni Nutr Cancer 2014; Braga, Cancer 1998).

Olive Oil Aids Blood Sugar:

The oleic acid in olive oil may improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels in healthy people and in those with high triglyceride levels compared to saturated fats (Bermudez, Food Funct 2014). One study found that consuming 10 grams (a little more than half a tablespoon ) of olive oil with a meal of chicken, salad and bread significantly reduced increases in blood sugar after the meal compared to the same meal prepared with corn oil instead of olive oil (Violi, Nutr Diabetes 2015). In men and women with type 2 diabetes, consuming a non-calorie restricted Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil (one liter of olive oil per week was provided -- the men and women were instructed to consume 4 or more tablespoons per day) for one year reduced total body weight and improved glucose metabolism as well as the standard, commonly recommended low-fat, diet (Lasa, Eur J Clin Nutr 2014).

Beneficial effects of olive oil on blood sugar have also been shown in people with type 1 diabetes. A study among 13 men and women with type 1 diabetes on insulin pumps found that adding 37 grams (about 2.5 tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil to a high-glycemic meal (including white rice and white bread) resulted, over the next 3 hours, in blood glucose levels which were just half of that which occurred with the same meal but when a similar amount of fat from butter was substituted for the olive oil. Interestingly, reducing the amount of extra virgin olive oil to just 10 grams resulted in a similar blood glucose level as found with the butter — although, over the next few hours, glucose levels returned to pre-meal levels, while they remained elevated in the group which consumed butter. There was no significant benefit with olive oil when the experiment was done with a low-glycemic meal (Bozzetto, Diabetes Care 2016).

Olive Oil for Pain and Inflammation?

Freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil contains a compound called oleocanthal which has been shown in laboratory experiments to have an anti-inflammatory effect similar to ibuprofen, through the inhibition of Cox-1 and Cox-2 enzymes (Beauchamp, Nature 2005). However, because the amount of oleocanthal in olive oil is quite small, it would be difficult to consume enough extra virgin olive oil to provide similar pain relief. In fact, it has been calculated that even 3 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil might only have 10% of the effect of a normal dose of ibuprofen (Parkinson, Int J Mol Sci 2014).

Testosterone Effect of Olive Oil?

Laboratory evidence suggests olive oil may increase testosterone levels by influencing enzymes involved in testosterone production (Hurtado de Catalfo, Lipids 2009). One small study in young men in Morocco found that 25 mL (a little less than 2 tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil increased blood levels of testosterone by about 17% in healthy young men when consumed daily for three weeks, however, the study lacked a placebo control and, for two weeks prior to being given olive oil, the men had, instead, consumed butter daily (Derouiche, Nat Prod Commun 2013).

Safety -- Be aware of drug interactions with olive oil

Consumption of olive oil in the diet is generally considered to be safe and is well-tolerated. Although a "healthy" oil, olive oil is a fat and will contribute calories like any fat, and should be used in moderation.

Be aware that olive oil may potentially enhance the effects of medications for diabetes, such as insulin and glimepiride (Amaryl), and certain medications for lowering blood pressure, such as diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc) and should be used with caution if you are taking these types of medications.

For more information, see the Concerns and Cautions section of the Extra Virgin Olive Oils Review.

How can I find the best quality extra virgin olive oil?

Although extra virgin olive oil may improve heart health and have other benefits (partly due to their polyphenol content), there have been reports that some products are "fake" or adulterated with other types of oils. Fortunately, there are certain things you can look for on labels which help indicate a high quality oil, including seals from organizations which test olive oils for authenticity. While authenticity is very important, it is also useful to compare products in terms polyphenols (for potential "healthfulness"), which are not typically included on labels or part of certification testing. 

ConsumerLab.com purchased and tested 10 popular extra virgin olive oils, and tested their quality in the laboratory as well as subjecting them to sensory analysis (taste testing) by an expert olive oil tester. The results, which include CL's Top Picks, are found in the Extra Virgin Olive Oils Review.

Healthy Cooking

In a review of studies on the effects of various cooking methods on olive oil, researchers noted that temperature, cooking time and cooking method "undoubtedly modify the olive oil chemical profile" and that the polyphenols and vitamin E in olive oil become "almost depleted after a short heating period." (Santos, Food Res Int 2013).

A later study in Spain found that temperature, more than cooking time, reduced polyphenols. Sautéing for 30 minutes at moderate (248° F) or high (338° F) temperatures reduced polyphenol levels, respectively, by 40% and 75%. At the moderate temperature, there was little additional total polyphenol loss when cooking for 60 rather than 30 minutes and, at the high temperature, there was little additional loss when cooking for 30 rather than 15 minutes (Lozano-Castellon, Antioxidants 2020).

In order to minimize the amount of polyphenols and other components that are lost when olive oil is exposed to heat, what is most important is to keep the heat as low as possible. In addition, when possible, add olive oil in the later stages of cooking (particularly after turning down the heat) rather than at the beginning.

For more information, see the full Extra Virgin Olive Oils Review, which includes CL's Top Picks among extra virgin olive oils.

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67 Comments

Join the conversation

joy8481
February 24, 2016

Please test BRAGG organic unrefined-unfiltered extra virgin olive oil -first cold pressed imported from Greece. Thanks

John16556
March 11, 2018

Please test Bragg olive oil and all other Bragg products

ConsumerLab.com
March 12, 2018

Thank you for your suggestion, John, we will keep it in mind. You can see the results of our tests of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar in our Apple Cider Vinegar Review: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/apple-cider-vinegars-review/apple-cider-vinegar/#results.

Clifford8480
February 24, 2016

Could you please test Seka Hills Premium Extra Virgin California Olive Oil. Olive Pit Manzanillo Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Anything from Lucero Olive Oil in Corning California. Thanks.

Jacqueline8475
February 23, 2016

Central Market Olive Oil from HEB

eve8448
February 16, 2016

can you please test "swanson" certified organic extra virgin olive oil cold pressed. it has a wonderful taste. thanks.

Debbie8398
January 23, 2016

Could you please test the following:
Spectrum
Maison Orphee
Saint Spiridon
Emile Noel
Terra Delyssa
Thanks so much.

Louisa 8396
January 23, 2016

And Please test California Olive Ranch everyday variety - thanks for doing what you do!!

Louisa 8393
January 23, 2016

Please test Apollo organic Sierra - rated very high by UC Davis

Kathleen8392
January 22, 2016

Please test Kasandrinos Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil aavailable online. Thank you.

KRISTEN8385
January 21, 2016

Please test Carlini Olive Oil, available at Aldi.

Christina8397
January 23, 2016

Yes, please test the Carlini brand from Aldi's. Thank you.

Karen8380
January 20, 2016

Can you please test Abruzzo which is enriched in olive oil. This is the oil my cooking instructor recommends.

Manoj8379
January 20, 2016

Please test the private labelled Olive Oil sold in BJ's, Sams Club and Costco, like Costco's Kirkland, BJ's Berkely & Jenson (spelling ??), Sams Club's (Chef.. someting).

Thank you.

Joseph8375
January 20, 2016

Sprouts Farmers Market has an "Organic Imported Extra Virgin" Olive Oil with their label. Could you please add it to your test.

Perry8364
January 15, 2016

Please test COSTCO''s Kirkland Organic olive oil, both Greek and Spanish.

Thank you!

Kerin8363
January 15, 2016

Please Test - Lucini Premium Select Extra Virgin and Thessaly Organic Olive Oil (Greece) - Thank You

Cynthia8360
January 15, 2016

Please test California Olive Ranch, their " For Everyday " not only their " Special Reserve" as I can find this at my local supermarkets and even Walmart. Please also test some of the Trader Joe offerings. I have seen three of their oils mentioned as authentic on the Truth in Olive Oil website based on trained taste testing: TJ Premium 100% Greek Kalamata EVOO , TJ Premium EVOO, and TJ California Estate EVOO. I would like to know what Consumer Lab finds. I live nearly 2 hours from the closest Trader Joe's but stock up on the Greek Kalamata, my favorite, whenever I can, and I am sure many of your readers may have easy access to this store.

Glynda8353
January 13, 2016

Please test "Ava Janes Kitchen" olive oil. Their claims of being authentic are either fantastic or the best/worst scheme ever.

Glynda8352
January 13, 2016

Please please test Bariani olive oil !!!

anna8348
January 12, 2016

Please check all the ones that the ordinary public buy at stores--Von's, Staters, Albersons, Winco, Food for Less, etc. Also oil from Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Bristol Farms, Wild Oats, B.J's.

Wm8356
January 13, 2016

I would be interested In California produced virgin oil sold at Trader Joe's.

Anne8346
January 12, 2016

Please test Partanna brand (Asaro Partanna) extra virgin olive oil from Sicily, Italy.

Sandra8345
January 12, 2016

Please test Newmans Own organic extra virgin olive oil and 365. Thanks!

Integral Yoga8344
January 12, 2016

Please test the Colavita Organic extra-virgin olive oil.

jean8343
January 12, 2016

I just read an article showing that whole foods did not pass. Please test.

Dennis8340
January 12, 2016

Could you test Appollo brand olive oil?

lynn20237
June 23, 2020

I'd love to see Apollo tested since it's rated very highly.

PJ8339
January 12, 2016

Please include in the test list Whole Foods' brand - 365 oils. Thanks.

Susan8341
January 12, 2016

I agree, please test the Whole Foods brand

Ellen 8338
January 12, 2016

Please test Goya Extra Virgin Olive Oil as it is very popular in the Hispanic community. Thanks.

Michael8334
January 12, 2016

Please test;
*Imported "SPECTRUM" 'Organic' E.V. Mediterranean
--and--,
"ORGANICS" E.V. Imported from Italy, Distributed by Lucern, (Safeway brand).
Thanks

Susan8372
January 18, 2016

I would also like spectrum organic tested.

Lisa8328
January 11, 2016

Test any of the EVOO types from Trader Joe's. Thanks.

Susan8342
January 12, 2016

I agree, please test the Trader Joes brand!

Joan8327
January 11, 2016

please test:
Newman's Own - Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil - First Cold Pressed (product of Tunisia)

Vital Choice - Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Spain - Spanish Picual Olives

Thanks very much, Joan

Christine 8326
January 11, 2016

Please test the Trader Joes olive oils

Ann8325
January 11, 2016

Looking forward to the results on EVOO. Hope you will please test for rancidity also.

Marc8324
January 11, 2016

Request a sampling of the California Olive Ranch product line - Everyday, Rich & Robust, Arbequina, Arbosana, Miller's Blend, and Limited Reserve. Also agree with Andrew that Kirkland Organic would be helpful.

Pauline8323
January 11, 2016

Test Colavita extra virgin Olive Oil first cold pressed premium selection

Joan8322
January 11, 2016

Please test Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Willam8321
January 11, 2016

Please test California Estate Olive Oil(extra virgin) sold by Trader Joe's.
Thank you,
Bill

Harry8320
January 11, 2016

Please test Pompeian imported Extra Virgin Olive Oil

cherifa 8318
January 11, 2016

please test the Costco olive oil

Kathy8317
January 11, 2016

please test California Olive Ranch for Everyday meals

Julia8316
January 10, 2016

Test Veronica Foods Olive Oils (sold at many independent Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar boutiques in North America, and yes, I work at one such store) They belong to a program of UP Certification, and list harvest dates, country of origin as well as full analysis of polyphenol counts, Oliec Acid, etc. Their oils should pass all tests.

dave8314
January 10, 2016

i always buy my olive oil in 3 liter cans. is there any difference? but i would think with no light getting in,that would prolong its shelf life and its integrity.

Mark8313
January 10, 2016

Please test California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil. A friend of mine who survived pancreatic cancer, regularly goes to a cancer support group at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, GA. She said the Nurtritionists associated with the Hospital Cancer Support Group recommend this olive oil. I have no financial interest in this product.

Terry8312
January 10, 2016

Can you test the Cora brand. It is in NYS

catherine8311
January 10, 2016

test Sam's Brand - Daily Chef

Ann8376
January 20, 2016

Yes, please test Daily Chef Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is a Sams Club product and a good price.

Jacquelyn8310
January 10, 2016

Please test Carlini 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil sold at Aldi's

Susan8373
January 18, 2016

I would also like this product tested.

Karen8309
January 10, 2016

Please test Trader Joe's Tunisian Organic Extra Virgin unfiltered Chetoui Olive Oil.

Guy8308
January 10, 2016

Test the Kroger and Publix brands...

Robert8307
January 10, 2016

Hard to believe that Costco brand EVOO (organic and regular) was not tested since they are one of the largest single source of volume sales.

ConsumerLab.com
January 11, 2016

Hi Robert - The Kirkland Organic mentioned in the answer is a Costco brand; we've now noted this above to be more clear.

Art8306
January 10, 2016

Please test California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Elizabeth 8305
January 10, 2016

Please test a couple of the Veronica Food EVOOs. Stores that sell their oils and vinegars are popping up everywhere - their own website says they supply over 700 such stores. I received 3 bottles of oil from their stores as gifts over the holidays, and gave a couple as well. The medium-sized city where I live has at least two stores sourced by Veronica. Thanks.

Linda8303
January 10, 2016

Test products carried by Trader Joes

Evelyn8302
January 10, 2016

can you test trader joes 100% Organic extra virgin olive oil ...

Robert8301
January 10, 2016

Walmart has the Bertolli marked down for $5.98

Donna8300
January 10, 2016

just wondering if anyone saw the 60 minutes segment on olive oil?

David8330
January 11, 2016

we watched the original segment + the follow-up

Robert8299
January 10, 2016

Please endeavor to test widely available store branded EVOOs, e.g., more of those from Whole Foods, Traders Joe's (several varieties),and yes, Costco. But also look for and test the direct import brands found in your larger Greek, Middle Eastern or other Mediterraneans specialty grocery stores. Some EVOO brands I've seen include Greek Diamond, Iliada, Kalamata, Liohori, Lucini, San Giuliano, Sultan, Ybarra and Zoe, -just to mention a few. I look forward to your testing results!

Ann8642
April 19, 2016

Yes, please do include Zoe, which got favorable mention in the food section of the New York Times a while ago. Would like to know if the quality is as before; it comes in cans which I agree with one of the comments here, seems as though would shield the oil from degradation by light.

Harold8298
January 10, 2016

Please test the Columela brand of extra virgin olive oil (from Spain).

Reade8297
January 10, 2016

Test Colavita Extra Virgin. (Certified "authentic" refers to being Italian.) (And "Certified by "Quality Management System")

Doug8296
January 10, 2016

Please test California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Thanks

Patricia8294
January 10, 2016

Yes, please test the Costco Kirkland brand!

Louisa 8293
January 10, 2016

Please test the 100% california 365 brand from Whole Foods. It is unfiltered and has the NOOA designation and is extra virgin.

Thanks!

David8291
January 10, 2016

We've been buying California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for some time. It appears to be of good quality and, HUZZA!, it comes from the good old USA. I'd love to know what you think of it. BTW - it is bottled in dark glass.

Colette 8289
January 10, 2016

Please test LUCERO olive oils, I use them all the time.

jared8288
January 10, 2016

I buy at this place and they list their polyphenols and it is way above what you tested.
http://www.apollooliveoil.com/

Their Sierra Organic
[Certified Extra Virgin and Certified Organic | Free Fatty Acid: 0.15% |
668 mg/Kg polyphenols + 304 mg/Kg tocopherols = 972 mg/Kg total antioxidants]

Mistral Organic
[Certified Extra Virgin and Certified Organic | Free Fatty Acid: 0.20% |
592 mg/Kg polyphenols + 245 mg/Kg tocopherols = 837 mg/Kg total antioxidants]

ConsumerLab.com
January 11, 2016

Hi Jared - Thanks for posting about that product. It's important to clarify a couple of points, however. As noted above, CL is in process of selecting products to be tested, so what you read in our Answer is based on studies by other groups, not our tests. Second, this product is certified by California Olive Oil Council, which is good -- but that council does not test for polyphenols, so the numbers you cite appear to be based on that company's own claims. The polyphenol levels are, as you noted, extremely, high. This may be beneficial, but it may also cause a particularly bitter taste.

joanna8287
January 10, 2016

I would like to see Trader Joe's Olive Oil on the list
JME

Judy8286
January 10, 2016

Test World Market cold processed extra virgin olive oil..Mediterranean Blend

Sue8285
January 10, 2016

Please test trader Joe's brand.

Andrew8283
January 10, 2016

test the Costco brand: Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Alton8290
January 10, 2016

Test the Sam's Club private labels DAILY CHEF
Thanks

Arnold8304
January 10, 2016

I agree with Andrew8283 - Please test Kirkland's Organic EVOO. Thank You.

Kenneth8329
January 11, 2016

+1

Richard8331
January 11, 2016

Maybe you already know this, but the Kirkland Organic was the only one out of the fourteen imported olive oil brands UC tested where all three samples passed. I don't know if I'm supposed to include links here, but you can see this at http://www.lifeinitaly.com/best-olive-oil-us . I do not have a financial interest in the product (in fact, I can't even buy it because I'm not a Costco member).

Louisa 8382
January 20, 2016

I hope you will evaluate the packaging material - glass vs. plastic. The kirkland brands I have seen are all in plastic bottles - not my first choice for products I purchase.

ConsumerLab.com
January 21, 2016

Thank you for your suggestion Louisa. You may be interested in the link provided under the section "Choose an oil that includes a harvest date and is packaged in dark glass" in the answer above. It provides a comparison of glass, plastic, and other types of packaging for olive oil.

Idelle11522
December 25, 2016

I don't see any recent testing of olive oils. you stated tests were going to be conducted on January, 2016. It's now a few days from January, 2017. Please update your customers!!

ConsumerLab.com
December 26, 2016

Hi Idelle - The results of our olive oil testing will be published in early 2017. Be sure to check your newsletter, which will let you know when they are published.

ConsumerLab.com
January 8, 2017
Art11151
August 13, 2016

The Life Extension Foundation has just released their California Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which they claim has 600 mg/kg of polyphenols. This is about triple the amount in most of the others that have been tested. It would be great if you could test it.

Art Quaife, Ph.D.

JARKKO17042
August 6, 2018

LifeExtension >600mg/kg polyphenols sounds nice, but there are even better ones.

* Ecolibor, Spain. >2000mg/kg polyphenols
* Drop of Life, Greece. >1000mg/kg polyphenols

And there are some other similar products with at least 1000mg/kg at the time of bottling.

Certainly LifeExtension is better than 99.5% of extra virgin olive oils, I am sure! So much low-quality olive oil in the market.

ConsumerLab.com
August 6, 2018

Be aware that these products would be expected to be very bitter relative to most other olive oils, and may not be palatable for some uses -- like eating bread soaked in olive oil.

JARKKO17062
August 9, 2018

Life Extension has improved the product. It used to contain >600mg/kg. I have not tasted the old or new product.
http://www.lifeextension.com/Vitamins-Supplements/item02008/California-Estate-Organic-Extra-Virgin-Olive-Oil
"Our olive oil provides over 800 mg/kg of naturally occurring olive polyphenols".
"Best if used within 24 months from harvest date".

I have no idea what happens to polyphenols after for example 6, 12, 18 or 24 months of storage. Might depend on storage temperature.

Robert20172
June 12, 2020

Ecolibor Olive Oil is only available in Europe at the present time, according to their website.

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