Olive Oil Polyphenols - Oleocanthal: Effect on human health

oleocanthal ibuprofen olive oil health polyphenols
In recent years we are facing new developments in the olive oil field. Large research teams, through clinical studies, research and analysis, try to simplify the range of olive oil substances, to attribute to each substance its true biological action but also to help us understand which olive oils can have a significant positive effect on human health, as well as why this happens.

It is well known that olive oil, belonging to the category of Fats and Oils, consists mostly of fatty acids, mainly monounsaturated. There are already extensive studies that prove that due to its composition of monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil and in particular extra virgin, has particular benefits for the human body, being the healthiest vegetable oil for human nutrition.

Olive oil Phenols or Polyphenols

oleocanthal polyphenols olive oil ibuprofen
There are, however, substances in smaller quantities in olive oil (micronutrients) that have not yet been extensively researched. These substances tend to differ in composition from one olive oil to the next and consist of sterols, tocopherols, phosphatides and various other compounds. Of great research interest is a group of compounds found in olive oils - the so-called polyphenols.

Polyphenols are substances that occur naturally in olive oil and are formed from early compounds contained in the olive fruit. The most commonly mentioned polyphenols are oleocanthal, oleacin, oleuropein and its various aglycones, ligstroside and vanillin. During the processing of the olive, part of the oleuropein is hydrolyzed and thus several compounds are produced (mainly oleocanthal) which give the olive oil specific organoleptic properties and especially part of its bitter taste and pleasant burning in the throat. Polyphenols also play an important role in reducing the oxidation of fatty acids in olive oil (rancidity).

Oleuropein, tyrosol, hydroxytyrosol and squalene (a hydrocarbon and triterpene, a precursor of cholesterol and other steroids) are the main antioxidants in olive oil. We can simply say that the antioxidants of olive oil - predominantly polyphenols - help the olive oil itself to be preserved (reduce its oxidation) and have greater resistance over time, but the latest scientific evidence suggests that they can also have a positive effect on human health.

Depending on the biological cycle of the olive and the extraction method of the olive oil, the content of polyphenols in the olive oil varies. The content depends, among other things, on the variety of the olive and the ripeness of the olive fruit, since the content of polyphenols in the ripe olives is lower than in the unripe olives. This is the reason why the early harvest olive oil from green unripe olives, is considered the highest quality extra virgin olive oil, both for its quality and for its organoleptic properties, but also based on the micronutrients it contains.

Health Claim and olive oil polyphenols

oleocanthal efsa health olive oil polyphenolsThe available scientific data and particularly extensive studies on diseases and specific conditions were hardly any, until a few years ago. More recently, an extensive study has been launched on the effect of olive oil polyphenols on human health. So, it is still early to have a complete and clear picture of the action - properties of olive oil polyphenols, but there are already valid and recognized studies that show that it is a group of compounds that help the human body in a variety of ways.

These data, mentioned below, were taken into account by the European Food Safety Authority, when in 2012 it officially recognized the positive effect of polyphenols on oxidative stress, through the Health Claim mentioned in European Regulation 432 / 2012. It explicitly states that "Olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress". A basic condition in the Health Claim of European Regulation 432/2012 is the daily intake of 20 grams of olive oil that contains at least 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives (i.e. oleuropein and tyrosol complex).

Also, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes that consuming two tablespoons of olive oil (20-25 grams) daily can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. This is due to the monounsaturated fats of olive oil and at the same time suggests the replacement of saturated fats included in our diet with olive oil, and in particular extra virgin olive oil that has the best proportions of fatty acids compared to the other categories of olive oils.

Oleocanthal: the phenolic derivative with important biological activity

oleocanthal health olive oil polyphenolsA very important phenolic derivative, oleocanthal, seems to be of particular research interest, as it is characterized by strong biological activity.

Below are detailed scientific studies regarding the activity and properties of oleocanthal, with their respective sources.

• Oleocanthal seems to have an anti-inflammatory effect similar to Ibuprofen (Phytochemistry: Ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Beauchamp, Gary K. et al. Nature (2005), 437(7055), 45-46).

• Oleocanthal  seems to have a positive effect on Alzheimer's, slowing down the disease(“Oleocanthal-rich extra-virgin olive oil enhances donepezil effect by reducing amyloid-β load and related toxicity in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease” Batarseh YS, Kaddoumi A., J Nutr Biochem. 2018 May;55:113-123).

• Oleocanthal rich olive oils help reduce blood clots (Journal of Functional Foods 36 (2017) 84-93).

• Beneficial effect of oleocanthal against malignant melanoma of the skin (Nutr Cancer. 2016 Ju;68(5):873-7).

• Oleocanthal and its derivatives act against inflammatory diseases of the joints (Arthritis Rheum. 2010 Jun;62(6):1675-82).

• Oleocanthal has a beneficial effect on melanoma (Oncol Rep. 2017 Jan;37(1):483-491).

• Daily consumption of olive oil rich in oleocanthal and oleacin seems to have a positive effect in patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia(Effect of Dietary Intervention With High-Oleocanthal and Oleacin Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Patients With Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia a Pilot Study – Interventional Clinical Trial 2018/2019)

• According to the Professor of the Department of Pharmacognosy and Natural Products Chemistry of UOA, Mr. Magiatis Prokopis, "Chronic exposure to low doses of antioxidants / anti-inflammatory substances such as oleocanthal, offers protection against cardiovascular disease and aging." Also, "Oleocanthal is responsible for the pungency that is characteristic of unripe olive oil." (INGREDIENTS OF OLIVE OIL WITH SPECIAL IMPORTANCE FOR OXIDATIVE STRESS AND HEALTH, UOA, Presentation 2015)

High levels of oleocanthal in the olive oils by Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms

ελαιοκανθάλη πολυφαινόλες ελαιόλαδο υγεία Plus Health evoo έξτρα παρθένα
The values of oleocanthal concentrations in olive oils, according to literature, are not always at the same levels. This is because there are many factors that affect the final concentration of oleocanthal.

A study conducted at UC Davis in California, USA, where commercial samples of olive oils were studied, found that the average concentration of oleocanthal was 135 mg / kg. (Magiatis, Prokopios & Melliou, Eleni. (2015) - Olive oil phenolics and health: Innovation tools). 

At Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms for a decade now, in addition to the cultivation, the method of processing and packaging of olive oils, we have carried out a variety of analyzes and experiments to find out how the concentration of oleocanthal in our extra virgin olive oils is affected.

The organic olive oils of Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms have shown extremely high oleocanthal values, as high as 857 mg / kg. 

Plus Health – Extra Virgin Olive Oils

plus health multivarietal green πολυφαινόλες ελαιοκανθάλη
After many years of experiments, research and a variety of tests, we recently released our new line of multivarietal olive oils (5 olive varieties) under the brand name Plus Health Multivarietal, which is registered as a Trade Mark of Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms and is the culmination of our effort in producing high quality olive oils.

Based on the analyzes we have carried out in collaboration with accredited laboratories, the extra virgin olive oils Plus Health Multivarietal have a multitude of innovative and unique features.

More specifically, in addition to its excellent organoleptic evaluations and chemical analyzes, Plus Health Multivarietal Green olive oil shows particularly high concentrations of total polyphenols. These concentrations are several times higher than the limits of European Regulation 432/2012 which states that "Olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress."

In particular, the extra virgin olive oil Plus Health Multivarietal Green presents, among other things, extremely high concentrations of oleocanthal. It is of great interest that the percentage of oleocanthal in this olive oil exceeds 80% of the total phenols it contains, something that is repeated for a number of years. Thus, Plus Health Multivarietal Green is characterized as an extra virgin olive oil with high oleocanthal.

Nick Sakellaropoulos
Chemical Engineer M.Sc.
Production Manager
Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms


EUR-Lex - 32012R0432

Agapakis S., Olive oil and oleacein: Isolation and study of biological actions at the cellular level, Postgraduate Thesis, EKPA, 2016

Magiatis P., Ingredients of olive oil with special importance for oxidative stress and health, EKPA, Presentation, 2015

Kiritsakis A., Christie W.W. (2000) Analysis of Edible Oils. In: Harwood J., Aparicio R. (eds) Handbook of Olive Oil. Springer, Boston, MA

Beauchamp GK. Et al (2005) Phytochemistry: ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature 2005 Sep 1;437(7055):45-6.

Batarsheh YS, Kaddoumi A, Oleocanthal-rich extra-virgin olive oil enhances donepezil effect by reducing amyloid-β load and related toxicity in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, J Nutr Biochem. 2018 May;55:113-123. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.12.006. Epub 2017 Dec 27.

Karan Agrawal, et al.,Oleocanthal-rich extra virgin olive oil demonstrates acute anti-platelet effects in healthy men in a randomized trial Journal of Functional Foods 36 (2017) 84-93

Fogli S. et al., Cytotoxic Activity of Oleocanthal Isolated from Virgin Olive Oil on Human Melanoma Cells,Nutr Cancer. 2016 Jul;68(5):873-7

Iacono A. et al., Effect of oleocanthal and its derivatives on inflammatory response induced by lipopolysaccharide in a murine chondrocyte cell line. Arthritis Rheum. 2010 Jun;62(6):1675-82. doi: 10.1002/art.27437.

Gu Y., et al., Oleocanthal exerts anti-melanoma activities and inhibits STAT3 signaling pathway, Oncol Rep. 2017 Jan;37(1):483-491. doi: 10.3892/or.2016.5270. Epub 2016 Nov 23.

Andrea Paola Rojas Gil et al., Effect of Dietary Intervention With High-Oleocanthal and Oleacin Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Patients With Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia a Pilot Study, Interventional Clinical Trial, 2019.

Magiatis, Prokopios & Melliou, Eleni. (2015). Olive oil phenolics and health: Innovation tools. 10.13140/RG.2.1.3897.3601.