Categories: High Phenolic EVOO

by Marilyn Harding


Categories: High Phenolic EVOO

by Marilyn Harding


The Secret Ingredient of the Secret Sauce

Extra virgin olive oil is considered by many including Dr. Stephen Sinatra as the secret sauce in the Mediterranean Diet and it appears that oleocanthal is the secret ingredient of the secret sauce.

Ancient texts by Hippocrates and Dioscorides referred to the medicinal qualities of olive oil made from early harvest green olives. It’s the olive oil that has a peppery sensation on the back of the throat seconds after swallowing. Ironically, it is this type of olive oil with health-promoting phenolic compounds, particularly high in oleocanthal, that is sometimes pronounced defective by “experts”.

The olive oil industry has become a bit like the pedigree dog industry. Breeding for style and trends often loses the qualities of temperament and intelligence that made the breed great in the first place. Cultivating for flavours and aromas alone leads to the elitist attitude of judges. Add to that the nefarious practices of adulteration (puppy farms) and the result is a health conscious public bewildered to the point where they throw up their hands and reach for the coconut oil!

When I tell people back in Canada that I am involved in the olive oil industry, testing for the phenolic compounds oleocanthal and oleacein which are the two most widely researched at present, the ubiquitous response is what oil can I buy here? I honestly can’t tell them even though I know there are really fantastic extra virgin olive oils, high in polyphenols on the market, but they don’t tend to be shouting it out. That I believe is soon to change.

I remember the days of standing in front of the floor to ceiling shelf in the specialty food store and finally choosing an oil for the price and stickers. It’s got to be good was my rationale to myself. I have learned a great deal since then. What I advise purchasers to do is go where the store has trained staff in olive oils. Taste them. Ask questions. See if it has the bitterness on the tongue signifying oleacein a powerful antioxidant or peppery sensation on the back of the throat, signifying oleocanthal known for its extraordinary anti-inflammatory benefits. Choose one that is early harvest from green olives. The real producers know their business and are proud to declare the quality of their oils, including the phenolic content by reliable analysis.

If you are choosing extra virgin olive oil for its health benefits that research is proving in neurodegenerative, autoimmune and cardiovascular disease then it is important to be diligent and informed. Otherwise you are spending a lot of money on bred for show pink poodles.

Latest research potentially raises the profile of oleocanthal.

So when the latest Alzheimer’s study from a reputable institution is published referring to oleocanthal-rich extra virgin olive oil as a “medical food”, we all get a lot smarter about our own purchasing criteria.

EVOO (rich with oleocanthal) consumption as a medical food combined with donepezil offers an effective therapeutic approach by enhancing the non-cholinergic mechanisms of donepezil and by providing additional mechanisms to attenuate Aβ related pathology in AD patients.

Yazan S. Batarseh, Amal Kaddoumi, Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Louisiana at Monroe, Monroe, LA, 71201, USA

What I particularly value in this quote is that rather than the either/or of natural versus allopathic agendas we have a natural food that is health-promoting and also found to enhance the efficacy of a pharmaceutical. Human clinical trials are underway for for people suffering from Alzheimer’s using high phenolic EVOO.  in association with Alzheimer Hellas, Thessaloniki University, and Athens University.

What exactly is a medical food?

Medical foods are foods that are specially formulated and intended for the dietary management of a disease that has distinctive nutritional needs that cannot be met by normal diet alone.” Gayle Nicholas Scott, PharmD, Assistant Professor, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia; Clinical Pharmacist, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, Chesapeake, Virginia

Medical foods can be labelled as therapeutic” for or “for the treatment” of medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s, once approved by FDA. Supplements, functional foods or nutraceuticals, on the other hand, cannot make claims to prevent or treat a disease, but may suggest “supports memory function” or “may help to alleviate symptoms” as an example.

Under a formal description medical foods are formulations that are a “hybrid of prescription drugs and dietary supplements” created to treat a specific ailment and usually under a physician’s supervision.

Extra virgin olive oil is a naturally occurring food, long known for its health benefits for prevention of cardiovascular disease. Over the past several years, research has revealed that it is the polyphenol content of extra virgin olive oil that offers significant health-protective and health-enhancing benefits.

The health benefits of olive oil are 99 percent related to the presence of the
phenolic compounds and not the oil itself.



Oleocanthal as star polyphenol.

Indeed, the EU registered a health claim labelling regulation 432-2012 stating that extra virgin olive oils with polyphenol content greater than 250 mg/kg could state “olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress.”

In that same year, the research team of Dr. Prokopios Magiatis and Dr. Eleni Melliou at the University of Athens discovered the way to accurately measure the individual phenolic compounds in olive oil using sophisticated analytical Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). Video Interview

Of these some 30 known phenolic compounds, oleocanthal is the star with countless studies into its potential efficacy in preventing or alleviating symptoms and perhaps even treating autoimmune, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease along with many cancers as well as ameliorating the side effects of chemotherapy.



The EU funded 3-year, 5-country ARISTOIL Interreg Med Programme began a year ago December to study high phenolic olive oil, production methods and marketing. There are hundreds of producers in the partner countries of Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Croatia who are adjusting harvest times and agricultural methods to produce oils for the qualities that made it so revered thousands of years ago. Phenolic content measures well above the EU criteria with polyphenol levels of 1,000, 2,000. 3,000 and this year nearly 5,000 mg/kg from Atsas Farm, Cyprus. These are truly medicinal quality and used as supplements.

Extra virgin olive oil, rich in oleocanthal may or may not be a panacea; much has still to be proven. But in the meantime, there is enough research and growing body of evidence of the many health benefits of an Plant Based Olive Oil Diet such as Dr. Mary Flynn of Brown University recommends refined from the Mediterranean Diet. Oleocanthal is shining rather brightly in the medical research as that special ingredient in the secret sauce.

There is ample supply of certified high phenolic extra virgin olive oil right now predominantly in Greece and Cyprus since testing and production research began here. The one we know from California  with NMR certification is Berkley Olive Grove. It is consumer demand that will command the supply and get it into a store close to you. Now, as an informed and conscientious consumer you can ask for a high phenolic extra virgin olive oil and expect one with a proven pedigree for health.

To  your health!

Visit the Aristoleo Agora Marketplace for the growing list of high phenolic EVOOs certified by NMR as over 500 mg/kg of polyphenols. We are actively developing a Grass Roots Regional Network to supply the North American, British and European Market. Want to work with us? Call Athan at  +30-694-728-7828.



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