the winners of the Olympia Awards posing together

The international recognition of high phenolic extra virgin olive oil and its disease-fighting properties was the focus of the 9th Olympia Health & Nutrition Awards ceremony on June 27 in Athens, Greece. With more than 600 olive oil samples tested for health-protecting natural phenolic compounds at the University of Athens this year, over 250 were awarded.

In addition to the healthy olive oil of producers from 10 countries, the event celebrated the six-year anniversary of the establishment of the non-profit World Olive Center for Health (WOCH). WOCH was founded in 2018 to certify olive oil eligible for the European Union’s Health Claim, train producers to create healthier olive oil, and support scientific research on the health benefits of olive products, aiming to increase their economic value for producers. WOCH sponsors the annual Olympia Awards to recognize the achievements of producers of “the most powerful protective shield of our health,” high phenolic extra virgin olive oil (HPEVOO), according to the ceremony’s moderator, University of Athens Professor Prokopios Magiatis.

This year, the ceremony took place at the spacious Eleon Loft, once the site of an ancient olive grove in Athens. The distribution of awards was preceded by a presentation of scientific work supported by WOCH, an overview of the American olive oil market, a description of WOCH’s activities and expenditures, and a review of other scientific developments related to olive oil’s health benefits. The contributions of WOCH members and donors such as the Leventis Foundation were honored.

Beginning the scientific program, Professor Georgios Spanoudis from the University of Cyprus presented the findings of the first clinical study with high phenolic extra virgin olive oil in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. In this study of 44 patients, preliminary results suggest that 50 ml of HPEVOO daily could improve cognitive function, reduce fatigue, and have positive emotional and psychological effects on people with MS, improving their quality of life.

Dr. Evangelos Dadiotis of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens described what Magiatis called “a pioneering study that will bring about a revolution in the field”: “a fascinating story of synergy” featuring olive oil phenols and non-psychotropic cannabinoids. Like oleocanthal, cannabinoids are polyphenolic compounds; the former comes from olive oil, while the latter is found in cannabis plants. In animal studies, Dadiotis discovered that cannabinoids and olive oil phenols can work together to nearly eliminate epileptic seizures, to inhibit proliferation in several types of cancer cells, and to decrease symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor Georgios Samoutis from the University of Nicosia introduced the first clinical trial in Cyprus on olive oil phenols’ effect on metabolic syndrome, a common condition that is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. Samoutis and his team are comparing the effects of the first high phenolic olive oil capsule on the market to a placebo in an effort to see if olive oil can be turned into an actual medicine. Results of this study will be announced at a future Olympia Awards ceremony.

Dan Flynn, founding director of the Olive Center at the University of California, Davis, discussed recent consumer trends on diet and health in the USA, noting that the US has become the second largest consumer of olive oil in the world in spite of relatively low (but growing) per capita consumption. Most Americans surveyed considered olive oil the healthiest fat for cooking.

Dr. Pavlina Sverak presented a University of Minnesota study of a nutraceutical intervention with high phenolic extra virgin olive oil and curcumin for neurofibromatosis, type 1, whose symptoms include benign and malignant tumors, blindness, pain, severe itching and headaches, and high blood pressure. Promising preliminary results in the 15-person clinical study show that some patients who used HPEVOO experienced reduced itching, headaches, and pain.

Dr. Eleni Melliou, president of the World Olive Center for Health, provided an overview of the activities of WOCH, which include PhD student grants, the establishment of a non-profit Olive Lab & Shop for HPEVOOs, and support for numerous clinical and experimental studies related to the health benefits of high phenolic EVOO (one of them showing that HPEVOO benefits people in the early stages of leukemia).

In addition, WOCH is supporting the establishment of a Hellenic Olive Network to bring together Greek scientists who do research on olive trees, olives and olive oil. The goal is to foster collaborations, avoid redundancy, and encourage others in the Greek olive sector to interact with scientists. Scientists, companies, and producers’ organizations interested in joining the Network are invited to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 210 7010131.

Professor Prokopios Magiatis concluded the scientific portion of the program by briefly mentioning recent work on the health benefits of high phenolic EVOO that was done in Greece, Spain, Australia, and the USA (with the University of Athens leading the way internationally in studies of oleocanthal, the most-researched olive oil phenol). These studies provide new evidence that HPEVOO can help fight cancer, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and the effects of obesity and prediabetes, as well as improving recovery time for COVID-19.

According to Magiatis, “the road to the pharmacy is wide open” for high phenolic olive oil. Several types of HPEVOO capsules, drops, and other products are already sold in pharmacies (for example, WOCH members’ CardiOlea, Phenoliv, and Micoil). Last year, the development of Oleo Protect was announced; this year its new incarnation as Thousand Olives was revealed. This is the world’s first dietary supplement featuring isolated phenols (specifically, oleocanthal) that have been extracted from olive oil and put into capsule form.

More generally, Magiatis pointed out, “when we work together, we all move together in the right direction.” United by WOCH, many companies, institutions, and researchers are working together to shed light on high phenolic olive oil’s health benefits. Olympia Awards were presented to three of these companies for their recent support for research on HPEVOO: Ellis Farm, which donated Eliama Gold HPEVOO for the study on multiple sclerosis; Greek EVOO Olea True, whose olive oil is supplied by Pamako and The Greek Olive Estate; and Olive Fabrica, whose The Governor EVOO was donated for the study on neurofibromatosis.

Extra virgin olive oils with enough phenols to earn the European Union’s Health Claim received Bronze Olympia Health & Nutrition Awards, while Silver and Gold Awards were presented to HPEVOOs that exceeded the requirements of the Health Claim by specified amounts. In addition, the four EVOOs that were richest in health-protecting phenols received special Top Gold Awards: The Greek Olive Estate, Atsas Organic Products, Falcon SA’s Oleve brand, and--with the highest polyphenol content this year--Sparta Original Greek D. Sakkas Co.

George Mathiopoulos of The Greek Olive Estate is very proud of this “honor for many years of work, consistently working very hard, and putting all you can into it every year.” Anastasia Panteli from Atsas reports that many factors contribute to their organic EVOO’s high phenolic content: the Kalamon variety, an early harvest, an appropriate milling procedure, and the soil and microclimate. Antonis Tirpintiris explains that Falcon SA’s Oleve EVOO is rich in phenols for similar reasons, and because his team starts with carefully cultivated, well protected, healthy olives irrigated only “with exactly the necessary quantity” of water in a circular economy.

Top winners’ comments and scientific presentations at the 9th Olympia Health & Nutrition Awards emphasize that high phenolic extra virgin olive oil can play a significant role in both human and planetary health. As six years of activities demonstrate, the World Olive Center for Health is dedicated to supporting efforts to increase the positive impact of HPEVOO globally.

Greek Liquid Gold was a media sponsor of the Olympia Health & Nutrition Awards. Lisa Radinovsky does freelance writing and editing for the World Olive Center for Health, which covered her travel, lodging, and dinner expenses.

Thanks to the World Olive Center for Health for the photo that appears with the article.

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and/or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as others interested in supporting Greeks working in these sectors, are invited to consider the advertising and sponsorship opportunities on the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website. The only wide-ranging English-language site focused on news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has helped companies reach consumers in more than 220 countries around the globe.

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