Olive oil is the fat extracted from the fruits of the olive tree, which originates from the eastern Mediterranean Coast1. When the fruits are ripe, they are harvested and crushed to make a paste that is pressed (the traditional method) or spun in a centrifuge (modern method) to extract the oil.
Scientists are interested in olive oil because it contains natural plant chemicals that have powerful antioxidant effects in the body2. The flavour, colour and antioxidant content of olive oil varies according to where the olives are grown, and how the oil is extracted 1.
‘Virgin’ olive oil is extracted without any use of chemicals or solvents and at low heat, which means the oil is not altered in any way. ‘Refined’ olive oil is processed using solvents and heat to remove colour, odour and flavour3.
What do we know about olive oil and psoriasis?
In recent years researchers have become interested in the health benefits of consuming olive oil because in Mediterranean countries where it is the main source of fat, the rates of heart disease and high blood pressure are much lower than in northern Europe4.
Scientists now know that olive oil contains naturally occurring substances which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
One of the compounds in olive oil works in a similar way to the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen, by slowing down the release of inflammatory hormones called prostaglandins6. Because there is an overproduction of inflammatory prostaglandins in psoriasis, olive oil may help by slowing down this process.
The antioxidants in olive oil may also be beneficial, because people with psoriasis tend to have insufficient number of antioxidants to protect cells from damage7.
Olive oil also contains high levels of oleic acid, a type of fatty acid which is thought to have anti-inflammatory and heart health benefits 8,9,10. Because people with psoriasis have a higher risk of heart disease, olive oil may offer benefits beyond the skin.
What does the science say?
Currently there are no trials which have looked at what happens if we ask people with psoriasis to consume more olive oil. An early study from the 1980’s found olive oil capsules as a placebo treatment did not help to reduce psoriasis severity15, but we don’t know whether the oil used contained enough active compounds.
In a study looking at the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and psoriasis severity using a dietary questionnaire16, researchers found higher intakes of olive oil were linked with lower psoriasis severity and fewer markers of inflammation.
Outside of psoriasis, studies have shown consuming olive oil can help accelerate wound healing17, and reduce markers of inflammation across a range of inflammatory conditions1,9,18,19,20,21, so it’s possible there may be similar benefits in psoriasis.
Are there any risks associated with olive oil?
Because it has blood pressure lowering effects, large intakes of olive oil may interfere with medications for high blood pressure.
How much olive oil do I need?
It’s difficult to say how much olive oil is needed to have an anti-inflammatory effect, but populations in the UK and U.S. consume significantly less olive oil than Mediterranean counties.
People in the U.S. consume about 0.7 litres of olive oil per year compared with 26 litres per person in Greece, 15 litres in Spain, and 13.5 in Italy1.
The amount of olive oil shown to have anti-inflammatory effects is typically between two and four tablespoons a day – around 25-50 milliliters.
- Olive oil contains natural plant chemicals that have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in the body. Virgin olive oil contains the highest number of these beneficial compounds.
- Olive oil consumption has also been associated with a lower psoriasis severity, but more studies are needed.
- Olive oil consumption can lower levels of inflammatory markers in healthy individuals and those with inflammatory disease, so it’s possible similar effects may be seen in psoriasis
- Vossen P. Olive Oil : History , Production , and Characteristics of the World ’ s Classic Oils. HortScience 2007;42(5):1093-1100.
- Tripoli E, Giammanco M, Tabacchi G, et al. The phenolic compounds of olive oil: structure, biological activity and beneficial effects on human health. Nutr. Res. Rev. 2005;18(1):98-112. doi:10.1079/NRR200495.
- International Olive Council. International Trade Standard Applying To Olive Oils and Olive-Pomace Oils International Trade Standard Applying To Olive Oils and Olive-Pomace Oils.; 2012.
- Parkinson L, Keast R. Oleocanthal, a Phenolic Derived from Virgin Olive Oil: A Review of the Beneficial Effects on Inflammatory Disease. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2014;15(7):12323-12334. doi:10.3390/ijms150712323.
- Beauchamp GK, Keast RSJ, Morel D, et al. Phytochemistry: ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature 2005;437(7055):45-6. doi:10.1038/437045a.
- Yildirim M, Inaloz HS, Baysal V, Delibas N. The role of oxidants and antioxidants in psoriasis. J. Eur. Acad. Dermatol. Venereol. 2003;17(1):34-6. doi:10.1046/j.1468-3083.2003.00641.x.
- Sales-Campos H, Reis De Souza P, Peghini BC, Santana J, Silva D, Cardoso CR. An Overview of the Modulatory Effects of Oleic Acid in Health and Disease. Mini-Reviews Med. Chem. 2013;13(2):1-10. doi:10.2174/1389557511313020003.
- Lopez-Huertas E. Health effects of oleic acid and long chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) enriched milks. A review of intervention studies. Pharmacol. Res. 2010;61(3):200-207. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2009.10.007.
- Carrillo C, Cavia MDM, Alonso-Torre S. Role of oleic acid in immune system; mechanism of action; a review. Nutr. Hosp. 2012;27(4):978-90. doi:10.3305/nh.2012.27.4.5783.
- Bittiner SB, Tucker WF, Cartwright I, Bleehen SS. A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of fish oil in psoriasis. Lancet 1988;1:378-380. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/o/cochrane/clcentral/articles/032/CN-00052032/frame.html.
- Barrea L, Balato N, Di Somma C, et al. Nutrition and psoriasis: is there any association between the severity of the disease and adherence to the Mediterranean diet? J. Transl. Med. 2015;13(1):18. doi:10.1186/s12967-014-0372-1.
- Najmi M, Shariatpanahi ZV, Tolouei M, Amiri Z. Effect of oral olive oil on healing of 10-20% total body surface area burn wounds in hospitalized patients. Burns 2015;41(3):493-496. doi:10.1016/j.burns.2014.08.010.
- Moreno-Luna R, Muñoz-Hernandez R, Miranda ML, et al. Olive Oil Polyphenols Decrease Blood Pressure and Improve Endothelial Function in Young Women with Mild Hypertension. Am. J. Hypertens. 2012;25(12):1299-304. doi:10.1038/ajh.2012.128.
- Schwingshackl L, Christoph M, Hoffmann G. Effects of olive oil on markers of inflammation and endothelial function???A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients 2015;7(9):7651-7675. doi:10.3390/nu7095356.
- Urpi-Sarda M, Casas R, Chiva-Blanch G, et al. Virgin olive oil and nuts as key foods of the Mediterranean diet effects on inflammatory biomakers related to atherosclerosis. Pharmacol. Res. 2012;65(6):577-583. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2012.03.006.
- Papageorgiou N, Tousoulis D, Psaltopoulou T, et al. Divergent anti-inflammatory effects of different oil acute consumption on healthy individuals. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2011;658(10):514-519. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2011.8.
- Ramirez-Tortosa MC, Urbano G, López-Jurado M, et al. Extra-virgin olive oil increases the resistance of LDL to oxidation more than refined olive oil in free-living men with peripheral vascular disease. J. Nutr. 1999;129(12):2177-2183.
- Bogani P, Galli C, Villa M, Visioli F. Postprandial anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of extra virgin olive oil. Atherosclerosis 2007;190(1):181-186. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2006.01.011.
- Casal S, Malheiro R, Sendas A, Oliveira BPP, Pereira JA. Olive oil stability under deep-frying conditions. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2010;48(10):2972-2979. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2010.07.036.
- Lee A, Thurnham DI, Chopra M. Consumption of tomato products with olive oil but not sunflower oil increases the antioxidant activity of plasma. Free Radic. Biol. Med. 2000;29(10):1051-1055. doi:10.1016/S0891-5849(00)00440-8.