Olive Oil Reduces Osteoporosis FracturesDecember 2018
By John Reeves
Osteoporosis does not affect just women.
As many as 45% of men have detectable bone loss on scans and 20% of American men over 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture.1-3
Fractures, especially hip fractures, are associated with increased all-cause mortality among older individuals.4
Extra virgin olive oil (and its key polyphenol, oleuropein) helps prevent two underlying causes of osteoporosis:
Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Olive oil also helps maintain the delicate balance between the breakdown and rebuilding of bone.5-8
A new study has shown that people who consume the most extra virgin olive oil have a 51% lower risk of fractures than those who consume the least.9
What you need to know
The Mediterranean diet has a well-document list of health benefits. However, new research shows that olive oil, its chief component, can lower the risk of fractures by as much as 51%.
Cut Osteoporosis Fracture Risk in Half
It has long been known that people living in the Mediterranean basin countries have a lower risk of fractures associated with osteoporosis.9
What has not been known is what specific aspect of the Mediterranean lifestyle was responsible for that lower fracture risk.
One particular staple of the Mediterranean diet—extra virgin olive oil—has numerous properties that make it a potential candidate for bone health.
Aware of these properties, researchers in Spain conducted a study, as part of the important PREDIMED trial of the Mediterranean diet, to determine whether or not extra virgin olive oil contributes to the lower fracture risk experienced by people living in the Mediterranean basin.
The PREDIMED study randomly assigned study subjects to one of three diets:9
A Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil (about 1¾ oz./day),
An identical Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts (just over an ounce/day), and
A standard low-fat diet (control).
For this study within a study, 870 participants between 55–80 years old from one of the PREDIMED centers were followed and observed for the incidence of osteoporotic fractures.
PREDIMED subjects completed food frequency questionnaires to record their actual dietary intakes, and they were specifically asked about their intake of total, common, and extra virgin olive oils.
There was one particular factor that made a significant difference in fracture risk: extra virgin olive oil.
The people whose total consumption of extra virgin olive oil was in the upper one-third had a 51% lower risk of fractures, compared with those who consumed the least.9
There are different types of olive oil. The highest quality is extra virgin olive oil, made from the first pressing of fresh olives. “Regular” or common olive oil, is refined oil or solvent-extracted oil made from the leftovers of olive pressing.
In this study, only extra virgin olive oil protected against osteoporotic fractures, and then only in those who consumed the most of it.
This says a great deal about extra virgin olive oil’s intrinsic ability to fight the major underlying contributors to osteoporosis.
One of the key factors is inflammation.
Combatting the Underlying Causes of Osteoporosis
Excessive inflammation has destructive effects throughout the body. In bones specifically, it disrupts the balance between the cells that break down bone (osteoclasts) and those that build up new bone (osteoblasts).
In the presence of chronic inflammation, osteoclasts work overtime, while osteo blasts are effectively laid off. As a result, bone breaks down faster than new bone is formed—creating a dangerous imbalance that leads to osteoporosis.10,11
Recognizing that osteoporosis is in large part an inflammation-driven disease opens the door to exploring therapies that are capable of quelling chronic inflammation—rather than focusing only on mineral metabolism or other more bone-specific pathways, as is the case with many prescription osteoporosis drugs.11
That’s where extra virgin olive comes in.
Olive Oil’s Key Ingredient
Extra virgin olive oil is an ideal candidate for reducing inflammation throughout the body because of its rich supply of bioactive plant compounds called polyphenols.
Polyphenols protect the plants that produce them, helping them adapt to the often-harsh conditions under which they grow.
Polyphenols also have protective benefits for human cells, tissues, and organs—including bone.
One particular polyphenol, oleuropein, appears responsible for many of extra virgin olive oil’s bone-protective effects.7,12
Lab studies show that extra virgin olive oil and oleuropein have properties that contribute to its beneficial impact, including:
1) Inhibiting enzymes that make pro-inflammatory signaling molecules (cytokines).5
2) Reducing oxidative stress in tissues.5
3) Stimulating proliferation of bone-forming osteoblasts, helping to restore the balance of bone absorption and formation in favor of stronger bones.7,8
In other words, oleuropein may help prevent some of the root causes of osteoporosis, while helping to restore balance between the buildup and breakdown of bones.
Extra Protection for Postmenopausal Women
While osteoporosis impacts women and men, women are especially vulnerable because of changes to their bodies during menopause.
During menopause, the drop in estrogen, progesterone and other hormones rapidly decreases bone mineral density (an early sign of osteoporosis). An overlooked destructive mechanism that can occur during menopause is increased inflammation.13
Oleuropein can put a stop to that dangerous cascade.
This was seen in a study of female rats whose ovaries were surgically removed to simulate the abrupt drop in estrogen levels at menopause. As expected, inflammatory changes quickly occurred, which led to decreased bone mineral density.6
But when the rats were treated with oleuropein, markers of inflammation subsided and bone loss was significantly reduced.6
This study indicates that oleuropein from extra virgin olive oil could help prevent the types of changes that increase the risk of osteoporosis in menopausal women.
Choosing the Best Olive Oil
The studies mentioned in this article specifically used extra virgin olive oil.
This is the oil that comes from the first, gentle, “cold” pressing of the fresh olive fruits. Other extraction methods using higher-pressure and higher-temperature pressings can destroy the delicate polyphenol compounds, depriving the oil of much of its pleasant taste as well as its health-giving benefits.
Extra virgin olive oil is the only type of olive oil that reliably contains the highest concentrations of oleuropein and other beneficial compounds.
Osteoporosis increases the risk of suffering from a fracture, which can be especially dangerous for older individuals.
A recent study found that people who consume the most extra virgin olive oil have less than half the risk of experiencing an osteoporosis-related fracture compared to those who consumed the least.
Lab and animal studies show that extra virgin olive oil can combat the inflammation and oxidative stress that contribute to osteoporosis. It also boosts the activity of beneficial bone-forming osteoblast cells.
Maturing individuals should consume about 1 to 2.3 ounces of extra virgin olive oil daily as part of their diet. Olive fruit polyphenols can also be found in certain dietary supplements.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
- Drake MT, Khosla S. Male osteoporosis. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2012 Sep;41(3):629-41.
- Gaines JM, Marx KA, Caudill J, et al. Older men’s knowledge of osteoporosis and the prevalence of risk factors. J Clin Densitom. 2010 Apr-Jun;13(2):204-9.
- Khosla S. Update in male osteoporosis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Jan;95(1):3-10.
- Katsoulis M, Benetou V, Karapetyan T, et al. Excess mortality after hip fracture in elderly persons from Europe and the USA: the CHANCES project. J Intern Med. 2017 Mar;281(3):300-10.
- Maalej A, Mahmoudi A, Bouallagui Z, et al. Olive phenolic compounds attenuate deltamethrin-induced liver and kidney toxicity through regulating oxidative stress, inflammation and apoptosis. Food Chem Toxicol. 2017 Aug;106(Pt A):455-65.
- Puel C, Mathey J, Agalias A, et al. Dose-response study of effect of oleuropein, an olive oil polyphenol, in an ovariectomy/inflammation experimental model of bone loss in the rat. Clin Nutr.2006 Oct;25(5):859-68.
- Garcia-Martinez O, De Luna-Bertos E, Ramos-Torrecillas J, et al. Phenolic Compounds in Extra Virgin Olive Oil Stimulate Human Osteoblastic Cell Proliferation. PLoS One. 2016;11(3):e0150045.
- Garcia-Martinez O, Rivas A, Ramos-Torrecillas J, et al. The effect of olive oil on osteoporosis prevention. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Nov;65(7):834-40.
- Garcia-Gavilan JF, Bullo M, Canudas S, et al. Extra virgin olive oil consumption reduces the risk of osteoporotic fractures in the PREDIMED trial. Clin Nutr. 2018 Feb;37(1):329-35.
- Batoon L, Millard SM, Raggatt LJ, et al. Osteomacs and Bone Regeneration. Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2017 Aug;15(4):385-95.
- Lin TH, Pajarinen J, Lu L, et al. NF-kappaB as a Therapeutic Target in Inflammatory-Associated Bone Diseases. Adv Protein Chem Struct Biol. 2017;107:117-54.
- Chin KY, Ima-Nirwana S. Olives and Bone: A Green Osteoporosis Prevention Option. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Jul 26;13(8).
- Mundy GR. Osteoporosis and inflammation. Nutr Rev. 2007 Dec;65(12 Pt 2):S147-51.