Can Extra Virgin Olive Oil Lift Your Mood?

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Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Olive Oil For Wellbeing

Updated 10th May 2022

Mental Health Awareness Week
Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, giving us all a chance to think about ways we can boost our mental wellbeing through nutrition and lifestyle choices.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil For Better Mental Health in 2022

When it comes to our mental health, there are a lot of different things that can contribute to our overall well-being. Diet is definitely one of them! In fact, according to some experts, extra virgin olive oil can play a big role in improving our mood and preventing depression. Keep reading to learn more about this amazing oil and how you can start incorporating it into your own diet.

As we stride in to summer 2022, we are hopeful that the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID pandemic may be easing but the need to look after your mental health has never been more important.

According to The Mental Health Foundation, food can have a long-lasting effect on your mental health. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. As well as advocating dietary choices similar to The Mediterranean Diet, the foundation advises eating at least three meals each day and drinking plenty of water.

In addition, it’s a good idea to try and limit how many high-caffeine or sugary drinks you have, and avoid too much alcohol.

But, just how can specific healthy food choices such as extra virgin olive oil can help rebuild your mental resilience? A quality extra virgin olive oil is the healthy fat at the heart of The Mediterranean Diet  – top of the diet hit parade for improving your mental health.

With its emphasis on fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, grains and extra virgin olive oil, The Mediterranean Diet maintains its popularity among nutritionists and dieticians as an excellent choice for mental health.

Can Olive Oil Really Improve My Mental Health In 2022?

Good Mood Food
Good Mood Food

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the benefits of extra virgin olive oil for your physical health, but what a lot of people don’t know is that it can also be great for your mental health. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, which have been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of depression.

According to a recent article in the Financial Express,  remaining upbeat and tackling anxiety head on can be supported by making healthy nutritional choices such as the Mediterranean diet – rich in healthy monounsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil. This simple choice is recommended as one of a handful of key lifestyle choices to help see you through these challenging times.  In fact, olive oil has been shown to reduce the risk of depression. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is loaded with unhealthy trans fats from fast food, processed food, and vegetable oils like canola, sunflower, soy, and safflower which are extracted with heat and chemical solvents.

When participants in a large study called The SUN Project replaced these less healthy vegetable oils with olive oil, their risk of depression plummeted by almost 50%. 

Researchers concluded that the more trans fats consumed, the higher the risk of depression.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Increases Brain Cell Formation

Marriott Hotels has curated ‘Mood Diets’ as an antidote to the tough times we are living in. The menu includes many mood boosting foods to help arm our bodies and minds to cope with what life throws at us.  

Mumbai-based Himanshu Taneja, culinary director, south Asia, Marriott International, says:

The long-term mood-boosting foods are about overall health and tend to have a long-term impact on one’s mood. The Mediterranean diet, for instance, contains good-quality fatty fish, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, fruits, etc. If included in the diet, it gradually benefits the body and one starts developing a liking towards it. It will then work towards improving your mood and overall feeling of well-being,

Himanshu Taneja

Other ways to boost our mood, according to the report, include:

  • Positive affirmations
  • Art Therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Exercise

Research Shows Extra Virgin Olive Oil And The Mediterranean Diet Can Boost Mood

Extra Virgin Olive Oil For Depression
Extra Virgin Olive Oil For Depression

There have been many studies which have found a link between olive oil, as part of the Mediterranean diet, and a positive impact on mental health.  Scientists from Spain and from University College, London (see full details below) both found that adherents to the Mediterranean diet are 30% less likely to develop depression. And, the benefits are not just limited to prevention with an Australian team finding that adopting a Mediterranean diet was effective in improving symptoms of depression.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Can Contribute To Reduced Levels Of Anxiety

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.

As we emerge cautiously from the dark of lockdown, now may be the time to look for mood boosting superfoods such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil to lift the spirits.

When incorporated into a varied healthy diet, including plenty of fruit, vegetables and oily fish, extra virgin olive oil has been shown to contribute to decreasing the risk of depression.

Study Of Impact Of Diet Rich In Extra Virgin Olive Oil

According to a study from the University of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, diet rich in extra virgin olive oil can help to protect from mental illness.  

The study included 12,059 volunteers and explored the dietary determinants of stroke, coronary disease and other disorders. The research was conducted over a period of 6 years, during which time the researchers gathered data on lifestyle factors including diet and medical history.

The results revealed that volunteers with a high intake of trans fats had up to 48 percent increased risk of depression compared to those who did not consumer those fats. In addition, the researchers also discovered that a higher intake of olive oil and polyunsaturated fats was associated with a lower risk of depression.

This is one of a wealth of studies showing how extra virgin olive oil and the Mediterranean diet are associated with lower rates of depression.

Does Extra Virgin Olive Oil lift your mood?

Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Mental Health
Mental Health

Image Credit: Total Shape

An Australian study, named the ‘SMILES’ trial compared participants who took part in social support groups versus those who also were counselled about healthy food choices and consumed a Mediterranean diet.  After 12 weeks, nearly a third of those who also had the counselling and diet experienced remission from the depression versus only 8 percent for the support group only subjects.

According to Naturopathic Physician Vickie Modica of Seattle, Washington,

Omega-3 fatty acids, known to have an anti-inflammatory effect and thought to have a healthful impact on the nervous system, improve the symptoms of depression in multiple studies.”

(Source: Olive Oil Times)

These links between consumption of Extra Virgin Olive Oil as part of a Mediterranean diet form another layer of understanding of the proven benefits to overall cognitive function.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Study : Aristotle University Of Thessalonika

A new study from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Greek Association of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders has shown that the long-term daily consumption of extra virgin olive oil could benefit elderly people with cognitive impairments even more than previously thought.

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.

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. Thereby it showed contributed to a lift in mood.

“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. 

For more information on Extra Virgin Olive Oil and mental health:

Nutrition and depression at the forefront of progress:
 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3539842/

A randomized controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression:
https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y

Association of the Mediterranean dietary pattern with the incidence of depression:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19805699

Mediterranean dietary pattern and depression: the PREDIMED randomized trial:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3848350/

Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age:
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/dietary-pattern-and-depressive-symptoms-in-middle-age/96D634CD33BD7B11F0C731BF73BA9CD3