Can An Olive Oil Infused Mediterranean Diet Help Ease Anxiety?

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How the polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil can alleviate pandemic related anxiety

Updated March 25th 2024


  • Regular intake of a quality extra virgin olive oil could have a positive impact on reducing levels of anxiety.
  • The antioxidants in olive oil can improve our gut microbiome and the anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenols in EVOO could help promote a sense of calm and helping to restore balance.
  • The polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil include oleuropein, which evidence indicates could help in mitigating the physiological symptoms associated with anxiety.


  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Can Contribute To Reduced Levels Of Anxiety
  2. What Is The Link Between Extra Virgin Olive Oil And Mental Health?
  3. Why Are Polyphenols Important To Prevent Cognitive Impairment?
  4. Research On Mediterranean Diet & Effects on Cognitive Impairment
  5. A Drop of Science in Every Bottle Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil can contribute to reduced levels of anxiety

In the quest for optimal health, we often turn to nutrition to heal and strengthen our bodies. One golden elixir has been praised for its myriad health benefits – extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Lauded for its heart-healthy fats, EVOO is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and is known for its rich taste and health-boosting properties. But its potential does not end there. Emerging research suggests that the polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil could have a significant impact on reducing anxiety levels.

For those who count themselves among the wellness-minded, are seeking relief from the grips of anxiety, or simply want to enrich their nutritional knowledge, this blog will immerse you in the science of polyphenols, unravel their role in brain health, and reveal how incorporating EVOO into your diet can be a soothing salve for your nervous system.

New research linking weight gain during lockdown with increased levels of anxiety may lead to greater dietary interventions in any future pandemics.

According to a new study from Israel proven associations between diet quality and anxiety may result in a preventative dietary policy, particularly relevant given the increased risk of adverse COVID-19 outcomes associated with obesity.

The study concluded:

These findings suggest the need for routine and continuous surveillance of the nutritional and psychological consequences of outbreaks as part of healthcare preparedness efforts. Primary care physicians should refer people with high anxiety or substantial weight gain during the pandemic to appropriate mental health and dietetic treatment, as needed.”

Mediterranean Diets, consisting of fruit, vegetables, fish and extra virgin olive oil, have long been associated with boosting mental health.  The well documented 2017 SMILES trial showed that following a modified Mediterranean diet for three months had reduced their depressive symptoms.

“It was the first clinical trial to say: ‘If we take people who have moderate to severe clinical depression and we help them to improve their diet, will that improve their depression?’  And we found that it did,”, explained Professor Felice Jacka, director of the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University and author of the study.

A further study from PREDIMED which listed Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the title, showed that eating a Mediterranean Diet both protected the heart health of its participants but also reduced the incidence of depressive symptoms. Research from this study also highlighted secondary benefits to sleep quality of those who followed the Meidterranean Diet – which is also known to be a great mood booster.

The answer to this question lies within the trillions of live bacteria that live in our digestive system.  When out of balance, says, these microbes inside our gut have been linked to obesity, autoimmune disorders, asthma, allergies and diabetes. It’s quite a list, isn’t it?!

In addition, links have been found between depression, anxiety and mood disorders, and imbalanced gut microbiota.  So, looking after our gut health may be even more important than we previously thought.

When anxiety rears its head, it throws our inner harmony into disarray. The endocrine system releases stress hormones, and inflammation within the brain can ensue, contributing to the feeling of being on ‘edge.’ Fortunately, the anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenols in EVOO could help counteract these responses, promoting a sense of calm and helping to restore balance.

There is also a well-known link between our digestive system and our central nervous system, commonly referred to as the “gut-brain axis”.  Ever experienced a feeling of butterflies in your stomach when anxiety levels are raised?  Well, that could very well be your “gut-brain axis” in action! 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is packed full of anti-inflammatory compounds which, according to Naturopathic Physician Vickie Modica of Seattle, Washington, can “have a healthful impact on the nervous system, improve the symptoms of depression in multiple studies.”

Why are Polyphenols Important to Prevent Cognitive Impairment?

Polyphenols are a category of chemicals naturally found in many plant foods. They are recognized for their antioxidant properties, which protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals. What’s fascinating is that these same compounds play a crucial role in modulating the biological processes that can influence our mental health.

Extra virgin olive oil is particularly rich in a type of polyphenol called oleuropein, which evidence indicates could help in mitigating the physiological symptoms associated with anxiety. While the exact mechanisms are still under study, researchers posit that oleuropein may interact favourably with neurotransmitter systems and inflammatory pathways that are often disrupted in instances of chronic anxiety.

Polyphenols are a naturally occurring compound in plants and can have a powerful antioxidant quality.  Morocco Gold Extra Virgin Olive Oil is packed full of them and our new 2023 harvest has even more than ever before!

A new study has now shown that the long-term daily consumption of extra virgin olive oil could benefit elderly people with cognitive impairments even more than previously thought.

Scientists from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Greek Association of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders have succeeded in making the shift to MCI therapy via robust natural remedies that can be used in order to forestall cognitive deterioration. The scientists decided to investigate how extra virgin olive oil could play a role in mitigating or arresting the development of amnestic mild cognitive impairment.

The research, which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, tested the effects of high-phenolic early-harvest extra virgin olive oil against moderate phenolic extra virgin olive oil and the Mediterranean diet. Until now, there is no other study which has examined in such a detailed manner the effects of extra virgin olive oil in elders with amnestic mild cognitive impairment as an effective solution.

The researchers found that high-phenolic early-harvest extra virgin olive oil served as a natural therapeutic pharmaceutical compound for older adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment, which is considered a prodromal condition to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Research on Mediterrean Diet & effects on Cognitive Impairment

Previous studies have shown the therapeutic effects of following a Mediterranean diet on improving cognitive functions while decreasing the risk of amnestic mild cognitive impairment progressing to Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers conducted a randomized prospective study so as to examine the high-phenolic early-harvest extra virgin olive oil and moderate phenolic extra virgin olive oil versus the Mediterranean diet in MCI. Genetic predisposition (Polymorphism in the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene is a major genetic risk determinant of late-onset Alzheimer disease) to Alzheimer’s disease was tested and an extensive neuropsychological examination was administered at baseline and after 12 months.

Each participant was randomized and assigned one of three groups. Group 1 received the high-phenolic early-harvest extra virgin olive oil (50 mL/day); Group 2 received the moderate phenolic extra virgin olive oil (50 mL/day), and 3) Group 3 received only the Mediterranean diet  instructions.

The results of the study demonstrated that participants following an high-phenolic early-harvest extra virgin olive oil  variation of the Mediterranean diet fared better in the 12-month follow-up performance in almost all cognitive domains of the Alzheimer’s disease assessment scale-cognitive subscale, which is a scale used to understand the level of cognitive impairment caused by the disease, than adherents to the other two diets. Those patients also fared better with digit span, which focuses on the working memory activity and letter fluency.

Furthermore, adherents to the moderate phenolic extra virgin olive oil variation of the Mediterranean diet fared better on the same cognitive tests than participants in the control group, who followed a standard Mediterranean diet. “The results of this study suggest that the long-term consumption of an extra virgin olive oil-containing diet starting at an early age provides a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease and its related disorder cerebral amyloid angiopathy,” the researchers wrote.

A Drop of Science in Every Bottle Of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Understanding the link between our diet and mental health is a burgeoning field of study, and polyphenols like those found in extra virgin olive oil are at the forefront. While EVOO isn’t a cure-all remedy, including such nutrient-rich foods in our regular diet offers a promising and tasty approach to preventing and managing anxiety.

We’re often told that good things come in small packages, and in the case of the potent polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil, this adage rings true—especially for those grappling with anxiety. Eating well is about more than satiating hunger; it’s about healing, balancing, and cherishing our bodies from the inside out. By nurturing ourselves with the bounties of nature, such as the liquid gold of EVOO, we open ourselves to a world where food is medicine, and tranquillity might just be a spoonful away.

Remember, a well-rounded approach to anxiety management includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and appropriate medical advice. By adding extra virgin olive oil to a holistic lifestyle, you’re pouring wisdom onto your plate—one polyphenol-rich drop at a time.

Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional for concerns about anxiety or dietary changes.