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People are consuming excessive amounts of olive oil: Leading to consequences for the gastrointestinal tract

MDlinx Mar 13, 2024

It’s no secret that olive oil offers many health benefits. The nutrients and phytochemicals found in plant seed oils can, for example, improve the immune system, and the polyphenols in olive oil are thought to have antitumor, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant effects.

Bilal RM, Liu C, Zhao H, et al. Olive oil: nutritional applications, beneficial health aspects and its prospective application in poultry production. Front Pharmacol. 2021;12:723040.


As a result, many dietitians believe that regularly consuming high-quality olive oil is an important component of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Olive oil is the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, a diet frequently recommended to prevent and manage chronic health conditions like heart disease, depression, diabetes, and certain cancers.

Riolo R, De Rosa R, Simonetta I, Tuttolomondo A. Olive oil in the mediterranean diet and its biochemical and molecular effects on cardiovascular health through an analysis of genetics and epigenetics. Int J Mol Sci. 2022;23(24):16002.


Some people are chugging and taking shots of olive oil in hopes of reaping its many health benefits. On TikTok, users claim that downing olive oil this way supports digestion, detoxifies the body, and boosts the immune system. While there certainly are lots of benefits associated with regularly consuming olive oil, dietitians advise against drinking it by the cup. “Even too much of a good thing can be too much,” Chrissy Arsenault, RDN, a registered dietitian with TrainerAcademy and the founder of Pink Pamplemousse, tells MDLinx.


What are the health risks of consuming too much olive oil?


While olive oil is thought to be a crucial component of a healthy diet, consuming excess amounts, which may occur when chugging it, can offset the benefits. According to Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDECS, CDN, a preventive cardiology dietitian at Entirely Nourished, gulping down olive oil can increase a person’s overall caloric intake and the amount of saturated fat they're ingesting. This may lead to weight gain, difficulty in achieving weight loss goals, and an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, sometimes called “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ruuth M, Lahelma M, Luukkonen PK, et al. Overfeeding saturated fat increases ldl (Low-density lipoprotein) aggregation susceptibility while overfeeding unsaturated fat decreases proteoglycan-binding of lipoproteins. ATVB. 2021;41(11):2823-2836.

CDC. Ldl and hdl cholesterol and triglycerides | cdc. Gov. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Routhenstein says she recently had a client who drank a cup of olive oil a day because they heard that it was exceptionally healthy. “This extreme behavior not only hindered his weight loss efforts, but also adversely affected his cholesterol levels, as such high volumes of olive oil can be high in saturated fat, counteracting its purported benefits,” Routhenstein says.

While olive oil, in moderation, can help relieve digestive disorder symptoms, like bloating and constipation, especially in those with inflammatory bowel conditions, ingesting too much can actually trigger gastrointestinal discomfort, such as diarrhea and bloating, says Arsenault.

Vrdoljak J, Kumric M, Vilovic M, et al. Effects of olive oil and its components on intestinal inflammation and inflammatory bowel disease. Nutrients. 2022;14(4):757.



Consuming olive oil 


The health benefits of olive oil are most pronounced in people who adhere to a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains. The heart-healthy benefits of the Mediterranean diet aren’t solely attributable to olive oil, but to the combination of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and moderate amounts of dairy and poultry, according to Routhenstein. Each of these foods contributes “unique nutrients and bioactive compounds crucial for heart health and overall well-being,” she adds.

CDC. Healthy eating for a healthy weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



The healthiest—and safest—way to consume olive oil: Stick to 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons of olive oil per day, Routhenstein advises. “This has been shown to help reduce inflammation and cardiometabolic risk factors when consumed in smaller quantities,” she says.

Donat-Vargas C, Lopez-Garcia E, Banegas JR, Martínez-González MÁ, Rodríguez-Artalejo F, Guallar-Castillón P. Only virgin type of olive oil consumption reduces the risk of mortality. Results from a Mediterranean population-based cohort. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2023;77(2):226-234.



Look for cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) packaged in a dark, glass bottle, as this helps preserve its cardioprotective nutrients. EVOO also has a stronger antioxidant effect, research shows. EVOO is not only healthier for you; many find it tastes better, too. “High-quality olive oil should have a slightly bitter and peppery taste, unlike light olive oils out there,” says Arsenault.

Vrdoljak J, Kumric M, Vilovic M, et al. Effects of olive oil and its components on intestinal inflammation and inflammatory bowel disease. Nutrients. 2022;14(4):757.

Gorzynik-Debicka M, Przychodzen P, Cappello F, et al. Potential health benefits of olive oil and plant polyphenols. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(3):686.


Dietitians recommend that Instead of drinking olive oil like a beverage, use it to cook poultry, seafood, meat, and vegetables; as a salad dressing; or as a dip for bread and crackers. “Rather than taking shots or chugging from the bottle, I recommend using olive oil to flavor your food so that you're actually enjoying it,” Arsenault says. 

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