World’s Healthiest Olive Oil? The Jury’s Still Out

Boundary Bend claimed in a press release that its California blend was declared the "world's healthiest olive oil" at a competition in Spain. Scientists caution, however, that such a distinction is premature and, at worst, misguided.
The Australian olive oil producer Boundary Bend recently distributed a press release that said its Cobram Estate California Select blend was named the “healthiest olive oil in the world” at a competition in Spain that measured the total polyphenol and oleocanthal levels in submitted entries. 

High phenolic content is being marketed by some companies to gain a competitive advantage in a crowded olive oil marketplace. Forbes Magazine recently wrote, “Olive oil can be sold as much as much as $150, packaged in a nice liter in popular sites, provided that it is certified to contain the right phenols — chemical compounds, which according to EU research contain health-protecting properties.”


“This is exciting news as we competed against the world’s greatest oils from Spain, Italy and Greece,” Cobram Estate’s technical director, Leandro Ravetti, said in the statement. “We are proud that our simple commitment to quality and freshness has gained California oil the recognition it deserves.”


While few would argue that Cobram Estate has established itself among the most awarded olive oil companies in the world, the “healthiest olive oil” distinction raises an important question: How can we know if one olive oil is healthier than another? 


The competition, called the World Best Healthy EVOO Contest, in Málaga was held in May and did not release the number of contestants in its brief presentation of the results. What it did say is that entries were rated by their total polyphenols, oleocanthal levels and “most balanced fatty acid profile.”


Phenolic compounds, which includes oleocanthal, are antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil that have been shown to prevent degenerative ailments such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.


But is an olive oil that has more polyphenols necessarily healthier than one with modest amounts? Aspirin, for example, has been shown to prevent heart attacks when taken daily. After years of research and million-dollar studies, 81 milligrams is prescribed as the ideal amount in a daily regimen. What is the ideal number for phenols? More