Drinking Olive Oil: A Health Elixir or Celebrity Fad?

By Hazel Flight | April 2nd, 2024

For centuries olive oil has been a staple of a healthy diet. Is there any evidence supporting the benefits of a daily olive oil shot? Nutritionist Hazel Flight at Edge Hill University looks at the science behind the trend.

In the ever-changing world of wellness trends and celebrity endorsed health fads there is a new trend on the scene: daily olive oil shots. Celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian, Beyonce, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez all extol the virtues of swigging extra virgin as well as slathering it on their skin, crediting olive oil for their glowing complexions. Lopez even based her JLo Beauty brand around the kitchen staple, claiming that her age-defying looks were not the result of botox or surgery but the family beauty secret: moisturising with olive oil. And she’s in good company. Hollywood star Goldie Hawn reportedly drinks olive oil before bed and uses it topically as a moisturiser, while beauty icon Sophia Loren really goes to town by bathing in the stuff. While these celebrities swear by the skin beautifying properties of olive oil, some skin types should give it a swerve. Those prone to acne or eczema, for example, might find the olive oil exacerbates their problems. Some dermatologists warn against using it as skin care altogether – bad news for JLo.

Thanks largely to celebrity promotion, drinking olive oil has now become a worldwide TikTok sensation. Viral videos show influencers tossing back shots of cult olive oil brands, and proclaiming a wide range of health benefits from improving digestion to clearing up acne. Celebrity and influencers are sold on liquid gold but what about the rest of us? Can drinking olive oil really work on miracles for our health?

The benefits of olive oil

There’s no doubt that olive oil is full of good stuff. It’s high in polyphenols and antioxidants, which have protective qualities for the body’s tissues. It’s also a rich source of essential fatty acids, including oleic acid, which is known for lowering cholesterol so reducing the chances of heart disease. Research has found that the inclusion of olive oil in the diet shows encouraging effects in a variety of inflammatory and medical diseases and can support weight management if used correctly.

Replacing butter, margarine, mayonnaise and dairy fat with olive oil has been linked to a lower risk of mortality. There’s also evidence to suggest that the protective compounds in olive oil may help guard against cancer, dementia and support the liverand kidneys.

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But none of this is new information to health professionals. The health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are well researched and nutritionists have promoted olive oil as a swap for saturated cooking fat for years.

After all, the Mediterranean diet has been touted as one of the healthiest diets in the world for decades. The diet itself can vary from region to region, but virgin olive oil is a consistent element. It’s used as the main source of cooking fat and included in everything from salad dressings to bread.

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Can fat be healthy? Yes and no

Fats are crucial for a balanced diet, aiding in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E,K and enhancing the nutritional value of meals.

However, fat of any kind is also dense in calories and excessive consumption can lead to weight gain. According to the World Health Organization, to prevent unhealthy weight gain, adults should limit their intake of fat to 30% of total energy intake with no more than 10% coming from saturated fats.

Two tablespoons of olive oil – the standard amount in the shots taken by celebrities and social media influencers – contain 28g of fat (238 calories) and 3.8g of saturated fat equating to 19% of the recommended daily intake.

That daily shot of extra virgin, then, might not be the best idea. Adding small amounts of olive oil to meals throughout the day is a more balanced – and appetising – approach to incorporating healthy fats into your diet.

But what about Kourtney Kardashian’s claim that: “It’s recommended to consume extra virgin olive oil in the morning on an empty stomach so the oil can coat your system and neutralize your stomach walls for optimal benefits?”

Some brands have also echoed the idea that consuming olive oil on an empty stomach offers unique health benefits. But no. There’s no scientific evidence to suggest this is true.

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For a healthy but more satisfying snack, Kourtney might try including a handful of olives into her daily diet. Olives offer the same rich array of nutrients, including vitamins E, A and K, alongside essential minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and amino acids.

Unlike olive oil, olives have the added benefit of a high fibre content. The combination of fat and fibre enhances feelings of satiety, making olives a nutritious addition to the diet.

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This article by Hazel Flight, program lead of nutrition and health at Edge Hill University, is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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