Regular virgin olive oil intake lowers mortality risk

Stephen Padilla
29 Mar 2023
Regular virgin olive oil intake lowers mortality risk

Moderate consumption of virgin olive oil (VOO) daily appears to help reduce the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, reports a study. However, such effects are not found in common olive oil.

“[W]e evidenced a noteworthy reduction in total and cardiovascular mortality risk linked to high consumption of VOO, but not common (refined) olive oil,” the researchers said. “Our results also suggest a synergism between high VOO consumption and total physical activity on all-cause mortality risk reduction.”

A total of 12,161 individuals, representing the Spanish population aged ≥18 years, were enrolled between 2008 and 2010 and followed up until 2019.

The researchers collected habitual food consumption at baseline, with a validated computerized dietary history. They used Cox models to explore the association between tertiles of olive oil varieties and all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality.

Overall, 143 cardiovascular and 146 cancer deaths occurred during a mean follow-up of 10.7 years. The highest tertiles of VOO and common olive oil consumption had hazard ratios of 0.96 (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.75‒1.23; ptrend=0.891) and 0.66 (95 percent CI, 0.49‒0.90; ptrend=0.040), respectively, for all-cause mortality. [Eur J Clin Nutr 2023;77:226-234]

Each 10-g/day increase in VOO consumption resulted in an HR of 0.91 (95 percent CI, 0.83‒1.00). VOO intake also showed an inverse relationship with cardiovascular mortality (HR, 0.43, 95 percent CI, 0.20‒0.91; ptrend=0.017), but common olive oil did not (HR, 0.88, 95 percent CI, 0.49‒1.60; ptrend=0.242).

Notably, no variety of olive oil significantly correlated with cancer mortality.

Earlier studies

“Presently, several dietary guidelines recommend healthy plant oils (eg, olive or canola oil) as part of the usual diet,” the researchers said. “Based on our findings, these dietary guidelines should emphasize the preferable consumption of VOO over the refined one.”

However, these results were not consistent with two previous studies conducted in Mediterranean populations, according to the researchers.

The first study, EPIC-Spain, showed a 7-percent, 13-percent, and 2-percent lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality, respectively, for every 10 g/2,000 kcal of total olive oil consumption. In the present study, the risk of total mortality was similar among those exclusively consuming the common or virgin varieties of olive oil. [Am J Clin Nutr 2012;96:142-149]

In the second study, an observational analysis of the PREDIMEND trial, each 10-g/day increase of total olive oil intake correlated with a 6-percent, 13-percent, and 5-percent lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality, respectively. The decrease in death risk associated with VOO consumption was slightly lower. [Rev Esp Cardiol 2011;64:876-882]


VOO contains bioactive compounds that provide anti-inflammatory effects; reduce oxidative stress; regulate the blood pressure and platelet aggregation; improve lipid and glucose metabolism, bone calcification, and mineralization; and enhance the composition of the microbiota. [Eur J Clin Nutr 2019;72:8-17; Foods 2020;9:1014; Nutrients 2019;11:2039; Stud Nat Prod 2018;57:41-77]

In addition, VOO phenols have antitumour effects, which “inhibit proliferation and … promote apoptosis in several tumour cell lines through diverse mechanisms.” [Mol Nutr Food Res 2013;57:71-83]

“Whether VOO is also superior to other vegetable oils needs to be tested in future studies,” the researchers said.

Editor's Recommendations