dreamstime_s_17124055The beneficial effects of the Mediterranean Diet on cardiovascular health have long been recognize. In recent years, the diet has also been shown to support bone health, even reducing the risk of osteoporotic fractures!  A recent study published in Clinical Nutrition explored the effect of the Mediterranean Diet, in particular the consumption of different varieties of olive oil, on the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures. The study concluded that a Mediterranean diet with a high consumption of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) was associated with a lower risk of osteoporosis-related fractures in the middle-aged and elderly Mediterranean population.  The consumption of other oils, including other common olive oils, was NOT associated with a lower risk of fractures in the study.  So what’s the difference between olive oils and what makes EVOO so beneficial?

The difference lies with how the oil is extracted and processed:
Extra virgin olive oil is made from the first cold pressing of the olives and pits and no heat or chemicals are used during this production process.
Virgin olive oil is the oil produced from the second cold pressing.
Pure olive oil is a blend of processed olive oil and a small percentage of EVOO.
Light or extra light olive oil is the lowest quality of olive oil and is manufactured by using chemicals and heat to remove impurities.  Sometimes it is blended with other oils such as canola oil.

Procuring the oil from the first pressing is essential because it contains the highest concentrations of phytonutrients and polyphenols which have well-known anti-inflammatory properties and may also play a role in the prevention of bone loss.  Oleuropein, a key phenolic component of EVOO, may prevent bone loss associated with osteoporosis by increasing formation of osteoblasts (bone forming cells).  Two other phenols, tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, may increase bone formation while reducing inflammation that initiates bone breakdown.

Because the processing of the olive oil affects the polyphenol levels, consuming pure, authentic extra virgin olive oil is essential to acquiring all the bone building benefits.  Unfortunately, much of the olive oils in your local food stores have been found to be adulterated with cheap soybean or other inferior oils, mislabeled or even rancid.  In a 2010 study done by UC Davis , 79% of the EVOO tested were rancid, of poor quality or adulterated with cheaper, refined oils. ConsumerLab.com evaluated 10 EVVO products for quality as well as polyphenol content and found that only 7 of the 10 passed, with 3 being uncertain that they were even EVOO.  See the chart below for the EVOO testing and results.


Product Name Approved/Not Approved/Uncertain Total Polyphenols (mg/kg) Cost/tablespoon

Notable Features

Whole Foods Market 365 Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 100 % Mediterranean Blend

Medium EVOO

Approved 218

Lowest cost: $0.10

Non-GMO Verified

Cold processed

Origin: Italy, Greece, Spain

California Olive Ranch

Extra Virgin Olive Oil-Everyday

Approved 260 $0.18

Non GMO Verified

First cold press

Origin: California

Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil Approved 315


First cold pressed


Origin: Italy, Greece, Spain


Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Approved 369

Highest polyphenol level in review

Low cost $0.11

USAD Organic Seal

First cold pressed

Origin: Italy, Tunisia, Greece and Spain

Lucini Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil Approved 215 $0.54


First cold press

Origin: Italy

Spectrum Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Approved 234


USAD Organic Seal, Non GMO, Kosher

First Cold press

Origin: Argentina or Spain

Trader Joes Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil Approved 237

Low price: $0.13

All natural cold pressed

Origin: Italy, Spain, Argentina and Greece

Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Uncertain:

Virgin, not Extra Virgin Olive Oil



First cold pressing

Origin: Spain and Tunisia

Newman’s Own Organics Uncertain: Virgin, not Extra Virgin Olive Oil 330


USDA Organic Seal, Kosher

Origin: Tunisia

Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Uncertain: Virgin, not Extra Virgin Olive Oil 218



First cold pressed

Origin: Spain, Tunisia, Morocco



What if you use a brand not tested by ConsumerLab.com, how do you know its quality or purity?  Unfortunately, it is impossible to judge the purity of EVOO just looking at it or tasting it.  However, there are things that you can look for to help you identify a quality oil.

Consumerlabs.com suggests evaluating your olive oil using the following guidelines:
1.  Look for a certification seal on the label: USDA Quality Monitoring Program, North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), California Olive Oil Council (COOC), the Extra Virgin Alliance (EVA).
2.  Choose an oil that includes a harvest date:  It is best to buy an oil within 15 months of its harvest date, not to be confused with the “Best By” date.  Unfortunately, not all labels provide a harvest date.
3.  Choose an oil packaged in dark glass: Dark glass protects the oil from oxygen and light.  Also, storing oil in a cabinet will protect it from light and keep it fresh longer.
Its important to note that cooking also affects olive oil.  It has been shown that temperature, cooking time and cooking method all modify the chemical structure of olive oil and deplete the polyphenols and vitamin E within a short period of time.

Recommendations when cooking with olive oil:
1.  Keep heating time to a minimum
2.  When possible, add olive oil in the later stages of cooking
3.  When cooking for longer period of time, add small amounts of olive oil frequently to replenish

To ensure you are getting all the valuable polyphenols to boost your bone health, add 3-4 tablespoons of cold EVOO to salads, pasta, fish or anything else. In addition to protecting against cardiovascular disease, using quality EVOO is another way you can build strong, healthy bones for life!

For more information on the things you can do to improve your bone health, contact me today!



  1. http://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(17)30006-7/abstract
  2. http://oliveoil.ucdavis.edu/research/files/report041211finalreduced.pdf
  3. https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/Extra-Virgin-Olive-Oil-
  4. Review/evoo/http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=13
  5. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996913002421


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