Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Our Golden Superfood)

Extra virgin olive oil is the unrefined oil drawn from the first pressing of olives, the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea), a traditional crop in the Mediterranean basin. Renowned for its silky smooth, fruity, pungent taste, and its fragrant aroma, and its beautiful golden colour, olive oil also offers distinctive health benefits.

Packed with a plethora of health-promoting essential fatty acids and compounds such as – oleic acid, phenolic compounds, polyphenols, tocopherols, squalene, and other antioxidants. EVOO offers a range of benefits that may be able to help alleviate symptoms and improve the overall quality of the diet in individuals with arthritis. Olive oil is largely made up of omega-9 fatty acids also known as oleic acid which is a healthy monounsaturated fat. Diets high in oleic acid are beneficial for controlling blood cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure and fighting.

In this article, we explore the remarkable advantages of EVOO and its potential role in managing arthritis.

Anti-inflammatory & Analgesic properties

EVOO contains high levels of polyphenols, particularly oleocanthal, which possess potent anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds work by inhibiting the activity of enzymes involved in the inflammatory process, effectively reducing pain and swelling in arthritic joints. Studies have shown that oleocanthal has a similar mode of action to ibuprofen, making EVOO a much more natural alternative to conventional pain relievers.

Joint protection and cartilage health

Osteoarthritis is characterized by the gradual breakdown of cartilage, the protective cushioning between joints. EVOO can help preserve cartilage health due to its rich content of antioxidants, such as vitamin E and phenolic compounds. These antioxidants combat oxidative stress, a major contributor to cartilage damage, by neutralizing harmful free radicals and supporting the synthesis of collagen which is a crucial component of cartilage tissue. Some research suggests it could be very beneficial for protecting cartilage from degradation.

Reduction in disease activity

Research suggests that EVOO may play a role in reducing the overall disease activity in arthritis. A study published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy demonstrated that regular consumption of EVOO may have a role in decreasing the levels of inflammation in synovial cells of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The ability of EVOO polyphenols to modulate the action of NF-kB (the main inflammatory pathway in RA), so it may be able to help reduce the inflammatory activity that leads to pain, stiffness, swelling and heat in the joint.

Enhanced bone health

If you have been told to watch your bone health from the doctor due to a higher risk of osteoporosis. EVOO contains a compound called oleuropein, which may have a role in promoting bone formation and prevent bone loss. Animal studies have shown that this compound in EVOO, may have a role in strengthening bones which could supposedly help prevent fractures associated with arthritis. It is certainly a space to watch as the research progresses!

Extra virgin olive oil, with its remarkable anti-inflammatory, cartilage-protecting, and cardiovascular benefits, presents an asset in the management of arthritis. From alleviating joint pain and inflammation to preserving cartilage health and enhancing overall well-being, EVOO offers a natural and accessible approach to complement conventional arthritis treatments. With its diverse advantages, EVOO stands as a golden gift from nature that holds immense potential whilst improving the diets of those living with arthritis.

Some tips to make sure you are selecting a good quality oil in the stores:

  • Make sure the olive oil says “Extra Virgin”
  • It should come in a dark, opaque glass bottle
  • The shelf life of freshly produced EVOO can range between 18 and 30 months. However, it is best consumed within 12 months from the date of harvest.
  • To ensure the oil stays fresh, make sure the bottle in a cool dark place.
  • EVOO should not be stored in the fridge as this will cause the oil to solidify.
  • Make sure the lid has not been opened and always keep the lid firmly placed on the bottle when not in use.

Here’s a recipe you might love to try if you are excited to start liberalising EVOO in your diet today!

Tomato and mozzarella salad served with fresh basil and drizzled with EVOO

  • 3 large Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 45g mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup minced fresh basil

Puel, C., Mathey, J., Agalias, A., Kati-Coulibaly, S., Mardon, J., Obled, C., … & Coxam, V. (2006). Dose–response study of effect of oleuropein, an olive oil polyphenol, in an ovariectomy/inflammation experimental model of bone loss in the rat. Clinical Nutrition, 25(5), 859-868.
Serreli, G., & Deiana, M. (2020). Extra Virgin Olive Oil Polyphenols: Modulation of Cellular Pathways Related to Oxidant Species and Inflammation in Aging. Cells, 9(2), 478. https://doi.org/10.3390/cells9020478
Nediani, C., Ruzzolini, J., Romani, A., & Calorini, L. (2019). Oleuropein, a Bioactive Compound from Olea europaea L., as a Potential Preventive and Therapeutic Agent in Non-Communicable Diseases. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 8(12), 578. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox8120578

Mary Zagotsis
Health Educator
Arthritis NSW
July 2023