7 Public Health Claims Covering the Mediterranean Diet and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

We could spend all day talking about the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. But we're not the only ones. Read on to find out what the FDA, ADA, AHA, ACC, ACS, Arthritis Foundation, and Alzheimer’s Foundation have to say about it.

1. FDA – U.S. Food and Drug Association

According to the U.S. 2015-2020 dietary guidelines, a variety of nutritious foods such as “vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, lean meats and other protein foods and oils. They limit saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium” (10).

They further list 3 examples of healthy eating diets that align with their standards.

Guess what diet made the list?

That’s right! The Mediterranean Diet.

The FDA also states that “there is credible evidence to support a qualified health claim that consuming oleic acid in edible oils, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease” (11).

2. ADA – American Diabetes Association

The American Diabetes Association recommends “eating more monounsaturated fats than saturated or trans fats in your diet”. They define “healthy” fats as olive oil and nuts (3, 4).

They also recommend the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids (from fatty non-fried fish) 2 or 3 times a week to prevent arteries from clogging (3, 4).
Furthermore, the ADA reviewed over 600 research articles and evaluated what dietary patterns work well for people with diabetes (5).

This is what they found –

3. AHA – American Heart Association

America’s heart health foundation “A Mediterranean-style diet can help you achieve the American Heart Association's recommendations for a healthy dietary pattern.” They further state that “There is some evidence that a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil may help the body remove excess cholesterol from arteries and keep blood vessels open” (7).

The AHA also recognizes that the Mediterranean diet plays a big role in preventing other comorbidities such as: obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure. They also mention that it has been proven to “boost brain health as well as improve heart health” (7).

They also promote the intake of monounsaturated fats (they specifically mention olive oil) to maintain the body’s cells and nourish the body with the antioxidant vitamin E (6).

4. ACC – American College of Cardiology

American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session revealed the results of a 10-year study that evaluated the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and heart health. They found that “adults who closely followed the Mediterranean diet were 47 percent less likely to develop heart disease compared to similar adults who did not closely follow the die” (8).

They mentioned that Mediterranean diet adherence was more protective than physical activity” in regards to heart health. They further elaborate on the other health benefits of this diet, such as “managing diabetes, hypertension and inflammation” (8).

Overall, they conclude that “following the traditional Mediterranean diet is linked to weight loss, reduced risk of diabetes, lower blood pressure and lower blood cholesterol levels, in addition to reduced risk of heart disease” (8).

5. ACS – American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society confirms that studies have shown higher vegetable and fruit intake reduces cancer risk. The Mediterranean diet is heavily composed of fresh fruit and vegetable intake daily (2).

The ACS also created a basic ingredient shopping list that included olive oil (2).

Although cancer prevention is not yet clearly understood, their research and recommendations are in line with the Mediterranean diet guidelines.

6. Arthritis Foundation

The Arthritis Foundation verifies the efficacy of the Mediterranean diet and olive oil in treatment of inflammation. They state that studies confirm this pattern of eating:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Protect against chronic conditions, ranging from cancer to stroke
  • Help arthritis by curbing inflammation
  • Benefit your joints as well as your heart
  • Lead to weight loss, which can lessen joint pain

They found that olive oil has similar properties to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They mention that these properties inhibit enzymes known to cause inflammation and reduce pain sensitivity (9).

The best source of olive oil, according to the Arthritis Foundation, is extra virgin olive oil. They state “it retains more nutrients than standard varieties” (9).

7. Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association notes that a diet lower in saturated fats is recommended.

They recommend the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet as two diets that not only reduce the risk of heart disease but also may be able to reduce the risk of dementia (1).

Written by Chloe Morrill
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a diet inspired by the eating habits of Greece, Italy, and Spain and is vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nut and seeds, and olive oil.

Q: What is the Mediterranean diet good for?
A: The Mediterranean diet can help improve health and disease prevention as it has been shown to have protective properties that fight against cardiovascular disease, cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, kidney disease, and many other diseases and conditions.

Q: What foods should I avoid on the Mediterranean diet?
A: Refined grains, refined grains, foods with added sugars, deli meats, and processed or packaged foods should be avoided on the Mediterranean diet.