HIGH PHENOLIC EVOO FACTS – Definition of High phenolic EVOO

The fact is: A new category of EVOO was created when the EU health claim labeling regulation 432/2012 for polyphenols came into effect in 2012, High phenolic EVOO was officially recognized for the first time since the age of Hippocrates, as having enhanced health benefits. This is the moment the high phenolic EVOO category was created.

Athan tasting EVOO at sial paris 2018

Athan tasting EVOO at Sial Exhibition Paris 2018

“The health benefits of olive oil are 99 percent related to the presence of the phenolic compounds, not the oil itself,” said Nasir Malik, research plant physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Agricultural Research Service.

To qualify for the health claim on the label, a very specific concentration of phenolic compounds must be present in the EVOO. This meant we can now separate the quality of EVOOs based not only on taste but more importantly based on the concentration of phenolic compounds (polyphenols)

“Olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress.” EU 432/2012 health claim

Oxidation is what creates “bad” cholesterol. Cholesterol and HDL oxidation explained:

In addition the following statement must be on the label or included in advertising material:

 A statement indicating the importance of a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle; 
Chapter IV ARTICLE 10 section 2 a)
 2. Health claims shall only be permitted if the following information is included in the labelling, or if no such labelling exists, in the presentation and advertising:
(a) a statement indicating the importance of a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle;

The approval of the health claim labeling regulation created an upheaval in the olive oil industry. There was open hostility from a certain section of the olive oil business that suddenly felt they lost control of the definition of Premium EVOO.

Consumer surveys confirm the main reason to consider purchasing olive oil is for its health benefits.

The 432/2012 health claim provided the first scientific method of measuring the health benefits of each brand of EVOO on the shelf.

“The claim may be used only for olive oil which contains at least 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives (e.g. oleuropein complex and tyrosol) per 20 g of olive oil. In order to bear the claim information shall be given to the consumer that the beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 20 g of olive oil.”

See page 22: Olive oil polyphenols


This was bad news for the elite olive oil companies because it created an even playing field overnight. Every independent olive grower now had the opportunity compete with the major players in the industry.

Who are the major players in the EVOO industry?

The major players are not the biggest olive oil producers or biggest companies. The major players are actually on the sidelines calling the shots. These include taste panels, IOOCs (International Olive Oil Competitions) individual taste consultants, laboratories. They believe they are the gatekeepers to determine the quality of olive oil.

When special interest groups see their influence being reduced suddenly they lash out.

First response is denial;

They rush to nullify the health claim be every mean necessary:

“It was not written properly it should be re-written”

“The term polyphenols is not correct it should be phenolic compounds,”

“Which specific phenolic compounds should we measure? Its not clearly stated in the health claim”  This is not hard to find out if you ask the scientists who created the health claim in the first place.

“How are we supposed to measure the phenolic compounds?” The answer is obvious.  How about using the same method used by the scientists who created the health claim? LC-MS/MS

But LC-MS/MS is not approved by the IOC (International Olive Council) they cry out. In fact the IOC is in the process of revising its own approved method and is looking for new methods. LC-MS/MS used in the EUROLIVE study exposed the inaccuracy of HPLC method approved by IOC in 2009. The approved method for measuring phenolic content HPLC was deemed inadequate in 2014 to measure phenolic compounds accurately already and the IOC is seeking new methods.

“But it is still the official method” the special interest groups cry out… but it is under review. “Until they approve a new one we will continue using the wrong one” is their official response.

Logic has left the building at this point – let me make it really simple: The EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) and the European commission approved the health claim therefore it approved the method they used (LC-MS/MS) to define the minimum requirement of phenolic compounds that needed to be present to qualify for placing the health claim on the label. Since EFSA approved the health claim they also officially approved the method of measurement, or any other method that gives similar results. It’s that simple. IOC method was never used by the research scientists in the EUROLIVE study.

Materials and Methods see page 502 in document https://aristoleo.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/de-la-Torre-Carbot.-J-Nutr-2010.pdf
Olive oil characteristics and analysis. The oils used were specially prepared for the study. The total phenol concentration of the oils was measured by HPLC-diode array detection (DAD) (Hewlett-Packard1050 with an automatic injector and DAD 1050 series instrument) and HPLC-tandem MS (HPLC-MS/MS) (Agilent 1100) equipped with an autosampler and coupled to an API3000 triple-quadrupole mass spectrometer (PE Sciex) (48)*.

*48. De La Torre-Carbot K, Jauregui O, Gimeno E, Castellote AI, LamuelaRaventos RM, Lopez-Sabater MC. Characterization and quantificationof phenolic compounds in olive oils by solid-phase extraction, HPLC DAD, and HPLC-MS/MS. J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53:4331–40 See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15913291

The difference between the IOC method (HPLC) and the method used by health claim can be understood by this simple analogy:  it’s as if the IOC method used kilos (kg) and the health claim uses pounds (lb) to measure weight. This is why IOC method of analysis for phenolic content are usually 50% less than LC-MS/MS. The reason for this discrepancy is because each phenolic compound has a different molecular weight. So the method used needs to be able to separate each phenolic compound and measure them separately. Only LC-MS/MS and the NMR method are able to accurately measure phenolic content. It doesn’t take a PhD to figure this out, but acting dumb is what some PhDs do best…

The official IOC method – it cannot measure phenolic concentrations above 800mg per kg. Research has determined the effect of the phenolic content in olive oil on LDL oxidation is dose dependent.

Recently, Covas et al. (7) demonstrated that, in parallel to the reduction in LDL oxidation, phenols bound to human LDL increase in a dose-dependent manner with the phenol concentration of the olive oil ingested. Page 505

The higher the phenolic content the lower the LDL oxidation. LDL oxidation increases the bad cholesterol. 

The independent olive growers have the most to gain from the health claim.  They are the ones that are able to produce this type of High Phenolic EVOO and compete with the big companies without the high cost and the hit and miss world of International Olive Olive competitions. There are no taste standards that can be applied fairly in these IOOCs.

It’s a lottery! the more competitions you enter the more chance of winning an award. An olive oil is sent to one competition – it wins a gold medal and the same batch of olive oil is found to have defects! No wonder they resist a scientific method!

Olive oil companies over the past few years have been desperately trying to create a new category of EVOO by attempting to create more stringent rules such as:Lowering the maximum acidity to 0.3 from 0.8

They also seek to empower the very subjective organoleptic analysis: Increase the significance of taste attributes of  EVOO such as balance, fruitiness and aromas to qualify for this new premium category. Problem with this type of premium EVOO is the balance, fruitiness and aromas in EVOO are not good indicators of phenolic content. This type of taste attributes are subjective and have little to do with phenolic content.

Lacking any wide agreement and acceptance it became a self regulated “premium” category created by newly formed associations of bottlers and producers with no official acceptance from the IOC or any of the food safety agencies in the EU.

These type of taste preferences evolved from the wine tasting industry and have sadly been incorporated into olive oil tasting.

The difference in taste of wine and olive oil is strikingly different; wine is made from fermented grapes high phenolic EVOO is made for Green unripened olives freshly picked and pressed within a few hours of harvest.

The taste attributes of balance, fruitiness and aromas are are often found in EVOOs made from green unripened olives but not always

What is found in EVOOs made from green unripened olives is an increased amount of health promoting and health protective phenolic compounds which research indicates and EFSA has accepted to be dose dependent.

The taste of high phenolic concentrations is a bitter and peppery taste.  The aromas or fruitiness or balanced are present but difficult to detect.. Again a direct avoidance of correlating phenolic content and a premium EVOO category – mirroring the wine tasting criteria. .

Australia and the US not being full members of the IOC created their own definition of EVOO. The purpose was to regain customer confidence shaken by the continuing scandals being uncovered for imported olive oils primarily from Spain and Italy. It also served to bolster their own olive oil production and support the rapidly expanding  local olive growers.

In the EU however instead of the industry insiders embracing the health claim and add value to the EU produced EVOO, they began to place one obstacle after another in its path to implementation.

They lobbied the Food safety Agencies in the EU to clarify by which method this new category of EVOO would be analyzed and certified for compliance. The current method approved by the IOC for phenolic analysis is the HPLC method which is incapable of measuring specific phenolic concentrations. The IOC under pressure form the olive oil industry decided to revise or approve other methods that could be used to measure phenolic content.

The EU health claim for polyphenols requires a very exact measurement phenolic content for compliance. The IOC however is not looking for precise methods to verify the phenolic content to implement the EU health claim because they have not even adopted it officially. They are seeking an inexpensive method so all the big olive mills in Spain and elsewhere could have it in their own facility. 

There are 2 methods that can measure accurately phenolic compounds for compliance with EU 432/2012 health claim but they were both rejected by the IOC for being “inappropriate.”

The LC-MS/MS was used by the researchers that conducted the human trials that led to the adoption of the EU health claim. The IOC rejected this method as inappropriate!

The NMR method (nuclear magnetic resonance) developed by Dr. Prokopios Magiatis and his team of researchers at the Univ of Athens was also rejected because as one well known academic declared “NMR method is too accurate! Olive oil is a food not a drug! It does not need such accuracy!” the NMR was not deemed inaccurate it was deemed inappropriate.

The reason it is inappropriate is because the IOC is looking for methods that did not require a large investment in analytical equipment. The LC-MS/MS costs over €300,000 and the NMR over €500,000.

The NMR has the advantage because it measures each phenolic compound separately. For the first time in the history of olive oil we could identify and analyze each phenolic compound in under 10 minutes.

Transparency had finally arrived to the olive oil industry much the same way it arrived to the food industry with the accurate measurement of the vitamin content in foods we consume on a daily basis. The concentration of vitamins is on every label from cereal boxes to juice drinks.

But the phenolic content on the label of olive oil is not compulsory and it uses a method of measurement that has been proven to be inaccurate by a long shot. The current methods such as the HPLC and Folin are inaccurate and they cannot measure each and every phenolic compound.

In addition there are vitamins in EVOO that are also not mentioned and other health promoting compounds such as:

Fat soluble vitamins, such as the ones found in olive oil, are generally not broken down by cooking. They are stored in the liver and body fat for long periods so it is not essential to eat them with every meal.

Vitamin E (a natural antioxidant): Olives have 1.6mg, or 2.3 IU (International Units) per tablespoon.

One tablespoon provides 8% of RDA for vitamin E.

Vitamin K: The richest sources of vitamin K are green, leafy vegetables. One serving of spinach or collards, for instance, or two servings of broccoli provide four to five times the RDA. The greener the vegetable, the higher the content, say the researchers, because the vitamin is associated with the chlorophyll. According to the USDA , vegetable oils such as olive oil are the second best source.

One tablespoon provides 7% of RDA for vitamin K

Fat soluble vitamins, such as the ones found in olive oil, are generally not broken down by cooking. They are stored in the liver and body fat for long periods so it is not essential to eat them with every meal.

Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. https://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/vitamin-d-deficiency#1

Here is an example of the phenolic profile as measured using the NMR method.

Oleocanthal mg/kg  500

Oleacein mg/kg  240

Oleuropein Aglycon mg/kg  81

Ligstroside Aglycon mg/kg  255


Other health promoting compounds found in EVOO:

Squalene: Olive Oil contains the largest percentage of squalene among the common vegetable oils. For instance, olive oil has 136-708 mg/100g of squalene compared to 19-36 for corn oil (Gutfinger and Letan). Squalene would be found in fresh extra virgin olive oil

Oleic Acid (C18:1), a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. It makes up 55 to 83% of olive oil.

Linoleic Acid (C18:2), a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that makes up about 3.5 to 21% of olive oil.

Palmitic Acid (C16:0), a saturated fatty acid that makes up 7.5 to 20% of olive oil.

Stearic Acid (C18:0), a saturated fatty acid that makes up 0.5 to 5% of olive oil.

Linolenic Acid (C18:3)(specifically alpha-Linolenic Acid), a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid that makes up 0 to 1.5% of olive oil.

“Essential” Fatty Acids
In scientific writing the term essential fatty acid refers to all the omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids. This is a historical convention, not a medical definition.

From a medical point of view, there are only 2 essential fatty acids that the human body cannot make:  linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid.

Both of which are found in EVOO; they the building blocks from which many of the other omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are made in a healthy body: linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid.

Whats in your EVOO?

Do you Know?

Find the best right here: https://aristoleo.com/aristoleo-agora-marketplace/


Subscribe to our free newsletter.

Don’t have an account yet? Get started with a 12-day free trial

Leave A Comment

Related Posts