Beyond Olive Oil – High Phenolic Olive Oil

Ask any proud Italian and they will all tell you that not all olive oils are created equally. There are good ones and some excellent ones but beyond this, there are some that are hugely beneficial to our general health and well being – these are High Phenolic Olive Oils. It’s not a new olive oil but rather, a category under Extra Virgin Olive Oil that contains a high amount of Phenolic compounds. It’s an oil that is measurably different compared to other olive oils insofar as, they have been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on us.

What Is High Phenolic Olive Oil?

High Phenolic Olive Oil (HPOO) is a relatively new classification of olive oil described by the EU in 2012, specifically a ‘432 Regulation’. It states that Polyphenols in olive oil are beneficial to blood lipids from oxidative stress. In simple terms, the EU acknowledges that HPOO is excellent for heart health but stipulates that this benefit is based on consuming 20g (approx 4 tea spoons) of HPOO with a minimum of 250mg per KG of Polyphenols. Over the past 10 years, a lot of research has been carried out to substantiate these claims, the findings of which have been backed up by Harvard University & UC Davis along with many other research centres.

What Are Polyphenols?

Polyphenols are organic compounds that are produced by some plants through synthesis. They are a category of nutrients that are almost a by-product of some plants and are scientifically proven to give health benefits. Some of the most common sources of Polyphenols are in tea, coffee, whole grains, legumes,  red wine, red berries, dark chocolate and of-course Olives. The latter proven to offer a significantly increased amount of Phenols in fats compared to other sources.

What is unique about Olive Oil Polyphenols is that they occur only during the ‘malaxation’ process – this is the mechanical churning process used to extract the oil from the olives. Since the olive is made up of 60% oil, it’s extremely important how this process is carried out as it directly affects the quality of olive oil produced. Although there are approximately 36 Phenolic compounds found in olive oil, there are two that are the most widely researched and stand out for having excellent antioxidant & anti-inflammatory properties.



You’ll know when Oleacanthal is present in olive oil as it has a varying degree of ‘pepper’ effect that lightly touches the back of the throat sometimes causing a reflexive cough.

Oleacein’s presence tastes bitter on the tongue and with these two tastes combined, it is actually quite common for people who regularly buy olive oil to mistakenly think they are buying a sub-standard or defective product.

There are thousands of types of Polyphenols but they fall into four main categories:

Phenolic Acids – which are about thirty percent of all Polyphenols and are mostly found in fruit, whole grains, vegetables and seeds.

Flavonoids – these account for sixty percent of all Polyphenols and are found in foods such as apples, dark chocolate, red cabbage and onions.

Polyphenolic Amides – these are found mainly in chilli peppers and oats.

Other Polyphenols – these are found in red wines, the acid in berries, in turmeric (curcumin) and in some seeds and whole grains.

The quantity and type of Polyphenols contained in foods is largely dependent on the food in question, it’s origin, how ripe it was prior to harvesting and how it was subsequently prepared, transported and stored.

Is High Polyphenol Olive Oil Healthy?

The simple answer is yes. Research in this field has concluded there are measurable benefits of consuming HPOO as well as acknowledgement and certification by the European Union in a jointly funded ARISTOIL Interred MED program.

Scientific research clearly show that Polyphenols are a powerful antioxidant that reverse or prevent damage to human cells caused by a combination of factors such as diet, ageing and general lifestyle. Over a period of time, this continued damage is directly associated with a much larger exposure to chronic diseases and whilst there are no specific side effects, consuming Polyphenols is considered essential for ‘lifetime longevity’

Olive oils that have a high content of Polyphenols have shown to provide the following benefits:

  • Lowering blood pressure – according to studies HPOO and olive leaf extract have been shown to lower blood pressure whilst also increasing blood flow to the coronary arteries and reducing the heart rate.
  • Reducing bad cholesterol –  Polyphenols contain Sitosterol which is shown to regulate cholesterol absorption.
  • Reducing the risk of type II diabetes – by controlling sugar levels in your blood and stimulating the release on insulin.
  • Reduction & prevention of many types of cancer – the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects is linked to lowering the risk of cancer and the same research show that HPOO may even block tumor growth and destroy cancer cells that are active.
  • Fighting premature ageing – antioxidants including polyphenols, have been extensively researched for their health benefits and there is growing evidence that populations consuming a diet rich in polyphenols are less susceptible to oxidative damage, ageing and associated diseases.
  • Reducing the risk of depression – compounds work over time to improve mental well-being by modulating and strengthening brain flexibility, cognitive response, mood and behaviour.
  • Reducing the progression of Dementia & Alzheimer’s by up-to 40% – compounds within HPOO were found to prevent the development of neurogenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
  • Reducing inflammation throughout the body – Polyphenols are extremely powerful at reducing inflammation with its rich source of antioxidants. Scientific studies have shown that they are able to regulate excessive cellular activitity within inflammatory cells.

If you are intending to buy HPOO for health reasons, you should consume it daily on foods, salads and even raw. Once you open the bottle, it is essential to consume it quickly well before the ‘best’ date to minimise the loss of Phenolic goodness and to preserve its integrity. HPOO is at its most potent as close to harvesting as possible and for optimum health benefits, is best consumed between 4-6 weeks after opening.

Make sure the bottle is closed again tightly as Polyphenols tend to evaporate in a short period of time from a bottle that’s open or not sealed well. As with all olive oils, the light, heat and air can affect it so you need to store it in a cool dark place and especially away from heat or the cooking hob.