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Is Olive Oil Beneficial For Weight Loss (2021)?

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is one of the main sources of healthy fats for people living in the Mediterranean and / or consuming a Mediterranean diet. In addition to EVOO, the Mediterranean diet focuses on high amounts of other healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Unlike most fad diets, this diet includes all food groups and has no major restrictions. Also unlike most fad diets, the weight management and weight loss it promotes is sustainable!
Let’s take a closer look:

Quick Rundown of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is more than a diet. It’s a lifestyle approach to health and wellness that consists of nourishing your body with whole foods and nutrients from ALL food groups. It's an inclusive diet that's stood the test of time, and for good reason. Not only is the Mediterranean diet delicious – it's also shown to help with weight management. According to the German Obesity Society4, there are several dietary options recommended for weight management which include “reduction of fat or carbohydrates (step 1), combined reduction of fat and carbohydrates (step 2), meal replacements with formula products (step 3) and low-energy formula diets (step 4)” (1). Researchers in an article by Austell et. al express that “Mediterranean diets for weight loss could be defined as a variation of step 2 in the recommended dietary options.” They go on to say, “[a] high proportion of dietary fat is provided by Olive Oil and nuts”(1), which has been shown to be beneficial in weight management. Specific eating and lifestyle habits that the Mediterranean diet promotes are described more in depth in this article.

Key Takeaway:

The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating more plant based whole foods, which has been shown to help with weight management and weight loss.

The Mediterranean Diet and Weight

Although the Mediterranean diet is much less limited and difficult to follow than other diets that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. It’s quite the opposite actually! The Mediterranean diet has been shown to result in major effects on weight. In a 2015 experimental study conducted by Austel et. al, the effect of the Mediterranean diet on weight was tested. The study included 250 individuals that were split into two groups. Participants in the intervention group (IG) were given a Mediterranean diet based meal plan and food supply list to use for twelve weeks. Study conductors followed guidelines and quality criteria for the weight loss and management process from scientific societies. Participants in the control group (CG) did not follow or receive guidance on the Mediterranean diet. The results of the experiment stated that “[w]ithin 12 weeks of intervention mean change in body weight in completers was −5.15 kg in IG compared with −0.37 kg in CG, BMI went down by 1.82 kg/m2 and 0.14 kg/m2, respectively and waist circumference was reduced by 4.7 cm vs 0.88 cm, all differences between the groups being highly significant” (1). The researchers concluded that “[a] 12-week modified Mediterranean-type diet induced modest weight loss in a sample of overweight and grade 1 obese subjects without serious comorbidities” (1).

Key Takeaway:

According to the experimental study conducted by Austel et. al, the Mediterranean diet has been proven to help with weight management, moreover weight loss.

How Olive Oil Consumption Affects Weight

Since we now know that the Mediterranean Diet Snacks may help reduce weight, how does extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) specifically play a role in weight management and weight loss? Well, The Prevention with Mediterranean Diet study (PREDIMED) may have some answers. Researchers discovered significant results in the weight change of participants that consumed high amounts of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Half of the individuals in the study followed the Mediterranean diet, specifically “supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts” (2). Participants were not given a specific meal plan or supply list, however they were guided by basic Mediterranean diet tips and a weight management approach. The other half of individuals in the study followed a reduced fat diet. Over the course of twelve weeks, researchers observed the weight and HDL-C (high density lipoprotein cholesterol) levels of participants. In fact, HDL-C level was one of the major factors studied because “overall, most pharmacological approaches for obesity treatment increase HDL-C” (2). Additionally, study conductors wanted to test the claim, which stated that “there is accumulating evidence that Mediterranean diet, especially when enriched with virgin olive oil, significantly enhances parameters of HDL atheroprotective functions” (2). Although both the Mediterranean diet and reduced fat diet resulted in weight loss and a decreased risk of obesity, the Mediterranean diet showed more significant changes (due to its HDL-C level increasing factors). The results of the study concluded that the Mediterranean diet (consisting of a high consumption of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)) leads to a greater reduction of obesity by increasing HDL-C levels.

Key Takeaway:

Based on the PREDIMED study that was conducted, olive oil is correlated with weight loss and prevention of obesity.

The Bottom Line

The Mediterranean diet and an increased intake of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has been proven to show significant results in obesity prevention and weight management. Olive oil and other whole foods are great ingredients typically consumed in a Mediterranean diet that you can incorporate into your daily diet that you make because of their health benefits and weight management contributions. There are many different recipes that you can make with olive oil, which may end up helping you maintain or reach a healthy weight! Challenge yourself to follow the Mediterranean diet and incorporate olive oil into your daily foods!

Written by Cameron Kao

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: Is the Mediterranean diet a fad diet?
A: No, the Mediterranean diet is not considered a fad diet that promises unreasonably fast weight loss or nonsensical health improvements. The Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle diet based off the lifestyles of people living around the Mediterranean Sea and promotes health and wellbeing by reducing risks for diseases. 

Q: How fast can I expect results from the Mediterranean diet?
A: Based on the results of the study conducted, results could be significantly seen at 12 weeks. Considering the Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle diet, results could vary from person to person and could take from a month to a year to see significant results. 

Q: How can I maximize the effects of this diet?
A: Along with following the Mediterranean diet, daily exercise and calorie restriction can help you lose more weight within a shorter amount of time for maximal results.