You likely know by now that I am not a fan of consuming much oil apart from small medicinal doses of DHA or EPA. (For more information on that, check out this past blog post.) But for this post, I’d like to talk specifically about olive oil and how commonly it is found to be adulterated.
Although olive oil is cited as a great source of polyphenols1, the benefits don’t usually outweigh the challenges, especially for those with liver/gallbladder concerns (which in my clinical experience is the vast majority of Americans…).
That said… Olive oil is considered one of the most adulterated foods in the grocery stores today. There are both intentional and unintentional forms of this product on the market and the issue is not new. Intentional adulteration usually has to do with adding cheaper oils to dilute the cost that would otherwise be incurred for producing a superior quality oil. Unintentional concerns of contaminants often have more to do with a lack of testing or can even be caused in transit (sitting in a warehouse or on a truck that is too warm, for example).
Harmful pathogens are able to survive the processing of olive oil potentially causing immune stress.2 In the early 1980s in Spain, 600 people actually died due to contaminated olive oil (which was actually mostly denatured canola oil).3 Although this isn’t common, it is possible and must be avoided at all cost.
The best olive oil is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). The most common adulterant of EVOO is dilution with inferior quality olive oils such as refined or virgin olive oils. The difference is both in taste as well as nutrition. These cheaper oils can also include toxic solvents from poor processing. The high heat used to process these lesser quality oils can also produce trans-fats. EVOO is also commonly diluted with cheaper nut/seed oils such as canola, sunflower, hazelnut or others as well.3
How to tell if your olive oil is good quality:
One thing that you can look for is a light green tint that is from chlorophyl of fresh EVOO. This is lighter or not even detectable in refined oils.3 Of course like anything, this isn’t completely fool proof as companies could potentially add coloring. However, it does at least help to rule out olive oils that have no green tint at all.
Again, not fool proof, but buying extra virgin olive oils that are cold pressed and packaged in dark colored glass is also important as exposure heat and light can damage the oils. Also, because even good quality oils are less potent over time, ensure that you’re not using expired date oil.
To be clear, I do not recommend consuming olive oil. You’d be better off and safer to find good quality olives and get the benefits of the whole food, including the fiber. However, if you insist on consuming oils (or you have friends or family who do), or if you are looking for a quality moisturizer for your skin, these are some things to keep in mind.
Remember that we are quantum beings. You are the treasure and you’re worth being nourished like a treasure. As a holistic doctor, if you need help figuring out how to navigate a tricky health challenge, feel free to reach out! In the meantime, keep moving forward. Everything that you do, say, eat or don’t do, say or eat matters. Your body is keeping score. Give yourself the advantage of optimal health!
1. Gorzynik-Debicka M, Przychodzen P, Cappello F, et al. Potential health benefits of olive oil and plant polyphenols. Int J Mol Sci. 2018. doi:10.3390/ijms19030686
2. Zullo BA, Maiuro L, Ciafardini G. Survival of coliform bacteria in virgin olive oil. Biomed Res Int. 2018. doi:10.1155/2018/8490614
3. American Botanical Council. http://cms.herbalgram.org/BAP/BAB/OliveOilAdulteration.html. Accessed September 21, 2020.