For the past several days my patients have been asking about a recent study (published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism) that explored the effects of olive oil on bone health. Dr. Fernandez-Real, MD of the Hospital of Girona in Spain, and colleagues, compared the bone-promoting effects of a low-fat (i.e. low-inflammatory) Mediterranean diet enriched with olive oil to that of two similar low fat diets, one which included nuts and the other with fat obtained from animal and vegetable sources. The study looked at the effects of these three diets on the blood levels of osteocalcin and P1NP (two laboratory biomarkers indicative of bone-building activity) in elderly men at high cardiovascular risk.
The authors concluded that "consumption of a Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil for 2 years is associated with increased serum osteocalcin and P1NP concentrations, suggesting protective effects on bone." (The other two diets did not have the same positive results.) The message to take from this study is that the anti-inflammatory effects of olive oil can have a profound impact on bone health. Olive oil is rich in the phytonutrient oleocanthal which helps to reduce inflammation. It is also a good source of the powerful antioxidant, vitamin E. Finally, because olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, which does not readily oxidize (oxidation is one cause of inflammation) it is considered to have anti-inflammatory effects. The less oxidation of fats, the less inflammation in the body. The less inflammation, the healthier the bones.
So yes, include olive oil in your diet!
Fernandez-Real J.M., et al. 2012. A Mediterranean diet enriched with olive oil is associated with higher serum total osteocalcin levels in elderly men at high cardiovascular risk. Journal of Clinical Endocrinolgy & Metabolism. doi:10.1210/jc.2012-2221.