There are many disagreements about fats in the diet.
However, pretty much everyone agrees that olive oil, especially extra virgin, is good for you.
Here are 11 health benefits of olive oil that are supported by scientific research.
Olive oil is the natural oil extracted from olives, the fatty fruit of the olive tree.
But the predominant (73%) fatty acid in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which is extremely healthy.
Monounsaturated fats in extra virgin olive oil are also quite resistant to high heat, making it a healthy choice for cooking.
BOTTOM LINE: Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. This fatty acid is believed to have many beneficial effects, and is a healthy choice for cooking.
Extra virgin olive oil is fairly nutritious.
Apart from its beneficial fatty acids, it contains modest amounts of Vitamins E and K.
But olive oil is also loaded with powerful antioxidants.
BOTTOM LINE: Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants, some of which have powerful biological effects.
Chronic inflammation is thought to be among the leading drivers of many diseases.
This includes cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer's, arthritis and even obesity.
Olive oil can reduce inflammation, which may be one of the main reasons for its health benefits.
The main anti-inflammatory effects are mediated by the antioxidants. Key among them is oleocanthal, which has been shown to work similarly to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug (10).
Some scientists estimate that the oleocanthal in 50 ml (3.4 tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil has a similar effectiveness as 10% of the adult dosage of ibuprofen (11).
One study also showed that olive oil antioxidants can inhibit some genes and proteins that drive inflammation (12).
BOTTOM LINE:Olive oil contains nutrients that can fight inflammation. This includes oleic acid, as well as the antioxidant oleocanthal.
Stroke is caused by a disturbance of blood flow to the brain, either due to a blood clot or bleeding.
In developed nations, stroke is the second most common cause of death, right after heart disease (13).
The relationship between olive oil and the risk of stroke has been studied extensively.
A large review study that included over 841,000 subjects found that olive oil was the only source of monounsaturated fat associated with a reduced risk of stroke and heart disease (14).
These findings are supported by another large review study, this one with 140,000 participants. Researchers found that those who consumed olive oil were at a much lower risk of stroke (15).
BOTTOM LINE:There are many large studies showing that people who consume olive oil have a much lower risk of developing stroke, the second biggest killer in developed countries.
Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world (16).
Observational studies conducted a few decades ago showed that heart disease was rare around the Mediterranean Sea.
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the key features of this diet, and protects against heart disease via numerous mechanisms (19).
Interestingly, it has also been shown to lower blood pressure, which is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease and premature death. In one study, olive oil reduced the need for blood pressure meds by 48% (26, 27, 28).
The truth is that dozens, if not hundreds, of studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil has powerful benefits for the heart.
If you have heart disease, a family history of heart disease, or any other major risk factor, then you might want to consider including plenty of extra virgin olive oil in your diet.
BOTTOM LINE:Olive oil has numerous benefits for heart health. It lowers blood pressure, protects LDL particles from oxidation, and has beneficial effects on many other risk factors.