Chemical composition of olive oil

What is the chemical composition of olive oil?

If you are interested in learning about the chemical composition of olive oil, in this blog post, we will explain what olive oil is made of, how it is extracted, and how olive oil can be enriched with natural additives to improve its quality and health benefits.

Olive oil is a liquid fat obtained by pressing whole olives, the fruit of Olea Europaea, a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking for frying foods or as a salad dressing. It can also be found in some cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, soaps, and fuels for traditional oil lamps. It also has additional uses in some religions.

Olive oil is composed mainly of **triacylglycerols** (triglycerides or fats) and contains small quantities of **free fatty acids** (FFA), glycerol, phosphatides, pigments, flavor compounds, sterols, and microscopic bits of olive. Triacylglycerols are the major energy reserve for plants and animals.

The composition of olive oil varies with the cultivar, altitude, time of harvest, and extraction process. It consists mainly of **oleic acid** (up to 83%), with smaller amounts of other fatty acids including **linoleic acid** (up to 21%) and **palmitic acid** (up to 20%). Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid that lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Linoleic acid and palmitic acid are polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids, respectively.


the chemical components of the olive oil

chemical components of the olive oil


Olive oil is classified into different grades according to its quality and purity. The highest grade is **extra virgin olive oil**, which is obtained by cold pressing fresh olives without any chemical or thermal treatment. It has a free acidity of no more than 0.8% and a favorable flavor profile. Other grades include **virgin olive oil**, **refined olive oil**, and **pomace olive oil**, which are obtained by using heat, solvents, or other methods to extract more oil from the olives or the leftover pomace.

Olive oil is susceptible to oxidation and deterioration when exposed to light, oxygen, heat, or microbes. Oxidation causes rancidity, loss of flavor, and changes in color and viscosity. To prevent or delay oxidation, olive oil can be stored in dark glass bottles or stainless steel containers, away from heat sources and direct sunlight. It can also be enriched with natural additives that have antioxidant properties.

Main phenolic compounds identified in Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Phenolic Extract

Main phenolic compounds identified in Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Phenolic Extract


Main phenolic compounds identified in Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Phenolic Extract

Main phenolic compounds identified in Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Phenolic Extract



Natural additives are substances derived from plants or animals that can enhance the quality and stability of olive oil. They can also provide additional health benefits such as anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, or anti-diabetic effects. Some examples of natural additives that can be used to enrich olive oil are:

– **Vitamin E**: A fat-soluble vitamin that protects cell membranes from oxidative damage. It also improves blood circulation and skin health. Vitamin E can be found in wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, almonds, hazelnuts, and spinach.

– **Carotenoids**: A group of pigments that give color to fruits and vegetables. They also have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Some carotenoids that can be added to olive oil are beta-carotene (found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins), lycopene (found in tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit), and lutein (found in kale, spinach, and broccoli).

– **Polyphenols**: A group of phytochemicals that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-cancer effects. They also modulate blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Some polyphenols that can be added to olive oil are hydroxytyrosol (found in olives), oleuropein (found in olive leaves), resveratrol (found in grapes), curcumin (found in turmeric), and quercetin (found in onions).

– **Essential oils**: A group of volatile compounds that give aroma and flavor to plants. They also have antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, and insecticidal properties. Some essential oils that can be added to olive oil are rosemary oil (from rosemary leaves), thyme oil (from thyme leaves), oregano oil (from oregano leaves), lemon oil (from lemon peel), and lavender oil (from lavender flowers).


Chemical structures of polyphenols identified in olive oil extracts - simple phenols

Chemical structures of polyphenols identified in olive oil extracts – simple phenols


nutritional components present in extra virgin olive oil

nutritional components present in extra virgin olive oil

To enrich olive oil with natural additives, different methods can be used such as blending, infusion, maceration, or microencapsulation. The choice of method depends on the type of additive, the desired concentration, the shelf life, and the sensory characteristics of the final product.

We hope you enjoyed this blog post about the chemical composition of olive oil – and its enrichment with natural additives. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them below. Thank you for reading!

Olive Oil Chemical Characteristics

Olive Oil Chemical Characteristics – (source: The Olive Oil Source)


Articles related to the composition of Olive Oil:

Antioxidant Properties and Fatty Acid Profile of Cretan Extra Virgin Bio-Olive Oils: A Pilot Study

Olive oil is considered a valuable ingredient of human diet. It is a good source of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, as well as other bioactive compounds, especially polyphenols. The composition of olive oil depends mainly on the variety of plant, cultivation practices, and manufacturing conditions. Traditional processing methods may ensure better quality and health benefits. Therefore, the aim of the study was the evaluation of antioxidant properties and fatty acid profile of Cretan extra virgin bio olive oils. These ones were compared with commercial Spanish, Italian, and Greek extra virgin olive oils. Obtained results showed that sample Cretan 1 had about 15% higher antioxidant capacity and about 60% higher total polyphenol content than commercial counterparts. This one had also a favorable profile of fatty acids, especially 20% more linoleic acid.

(NLM – National Library of Medicine)

Olive Oil Composition – Laboratory of Food Chemistry and Technology, School of Chemistry, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, University Campus, Thessaloniki, 54124, Hellas

(By Dimitrios Boskou, Georgios Blekas, and Maria Tsimidou)

The composition of olive oil is primarily triacylglycerols (~99%) and secondarily free fatty acids, mono- and diacylglycerols, and an array of lipids such as hydrocarbons, sterols, aliphatic alcohols, tocopherols, and pigments. A plethora of phenolic and volatile compounds are also present. Some of these compounds contribute to the unique character of the oil.

( – discover scientific knowledge and stay connected to the world of science)

Antioxidants in Greek Virgin Olive Oils

(NLM – National Library of Medicine) – the number of Greek olive cultivars—excluding clonal selections—is greater than 40; however, more than 90% of the acreage is cultivated with 20 cultivars, adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. Greek virgin olive oils, produced mainly with traditional, non-intensive cultivation practices, are mostly of exceptional quality. The benefits of consuming virgin olive oil, originally attributed to its high oleic acid content, are now considered to be the combined result of several nutrient and non-nutrient phytochemicals. The present work summarizes available data regarding natural antioxidants in Greek virgin olive oils (VOO) namely, polar phenolic compounds, tocopherols, squalene, and triterpenic acids.

(NLM – National Library of Medicine)

Chemical Characteristics of Olive Oil

Fatty acids in olive oil, trans fatty acids (none…), long chain fatty acids, percentage of linolenic acid, “essential” fatty acids, free fatty acids (FFA) and acidity, polyphenols (antioxidants) in olive oil, peroxides, pigments and color of olive oil, vitamins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), freezing point of olive oil, olive oil pH and other information…


Watch a video regarding production and types of olive oil, the chemical composition of olive oil and other useful information:

Explore the rich chemistry and science behind olive oil. Check out the latest REACTIONS video for more olive oil chemistry,
including how to keep your olive oil fresh and how to best use it to give your food a flavor boost



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