Study Shows Benefits of EVOO Supplementation in Male Athletes

Olive oil supplementation increases testosterone levels while reducing stress hormones in male athletes.
By Simon Roots
Nov. 1, 2023 13:59 UTC

A study pub­lished by researchers in Algeria has demon­strated that extra vir­gin olive oil sup­ple­men­ta­tion can improve the hor­monal sta­tus of male ath­letes.

The research was con­ducted on healthy male ath­letes of ages 19 and 22 and found that extra vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion was asso­ci­ated with a sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant increase in testos­terone in the sup­ple­mented groups com­pared to ath­letes in the non-sup­ple­mented groups and seden­tary con­trols.

Numerous stud­ies have explored the influ­ence of exer­cise on hor­monal bal­ance, with exer­cise being rec­og­nized as a sig­nif­i­cant reg­u­la­tor of hor­monal secre­tion. Physical stress, con­tin­gent on fac­tors such as the nature and inten­sity of the exer­cise and indi­vid­ual health, can impact the hypo­thal­a­mus-pitu­itary-gonadal axis.

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Some research has found that exer­cise has min­i­mal effects on semen qual­ity, while oth­ers have reported reduc­tions in sperm count and motil­ity. The impact on serum testos­terone lev­els can vary based on exer­cise inten­sity and dura­tion. Athletes often use dietary sup­ple­ments like omega‑3 fatty acids, polyphe­nols, antiox­i­dants and vit­a­mins to opti­mize per­for­mance.

The Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, is pop­u­lar among ath­letes due to its poten­tial health ben­e­fits. Virgin and extra vir­gin olive oils are dis­tin­guished by their monoun­sat­u­rated fatty acids and phy­to­chem­i­cals such as polyphe­nols, squa­lene and alpha-toco­pherol.

The study, pub­lished in the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, focused on the impact of vir­gin olive oil from Blanquette olives, which com­prise a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of east­ern Algeria’s crop.

The vari­ety is abun­dant in unsat­u­rated fatty acids, includ­ing oleic and linoleic acids, and com­plies with the International Olive Council’s qual­ity stan­dards.

The oil is also rich in phe­no­lic com­pounds and carotenoids, mak­ing it a potent source of antiox­i­dants. Additionally, it exhibits high inhi­bi­tion per­cent­ages for the DPPH rad­i­cal and hydro­gen per­ox­ide, indi­cat­ing its potent antiox­i­dant prop­er­ties.

The study group con­sisted of 30 healthy male ath­letes aged 19 and 22, all free from car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk fac­tors. They were divided into three groups, with dis­tinct reg­i­mens over ten weeks.

Group 1 received 20 mil­li­liters of vir­gin olive oil daily with­out spe­cific train­ing. Group 2 under­went train­ing rou­tines five days a week and received the same olive oil sup­ple­men­ta­tion. Group 3 fol­lowed the same train­ing rou­tine but was not sup­ple­mented with olive oil.

The olive oil sup­ple­ment was well-tol­er­ated, with no adverse effects reported by the par­tic­i­pants. Training for the two groups of run­ners involved a 10-week pro­gram with aer­o­bic and inter­val exer­cises.

The inten­sity and dura­tion of train­ing increased grad­u­ally dur­ing the pro­gram. Untrained run­ners in Group 3 exer­cised less than two hours per week, reflect­ing the gen­eral exer­cise rec­om­men­da­tions. The run­ning dura­tion var­ied among groups, with a median of 2 hours and 11 min­utes to com­plete the half-marathon.

Blood sam­ples were col­lected at var­i­ous time points through­out the study, with fast­ing sam­ples taken before and after the 10-week train­ing pro­gram and two days before and 24 hours after the half-marathon race. The sam­ples were ana­lyzed for testos­terone, luteiniz­ing hor­mone, fol­li­cle-stim­u­lat­ing hor­mone, cor­ti­sol and insulin.

Testosterone and luteiniz­ing hor­mone lev­els were notably lower in Group 3, the unsup­ple­mented run­ners, while cor­ti­sol increased sig­nif­i­cantly in this group after the 10-week train­ing.

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Additionally, luteiniz­ing hor­mone con­cen­tra­tions decreased in unsup­ple­mented run­ners com­pared to Group 2 and seden­tary con­trols. Other hor­mones, includ­ing fol­li­cle-stim­u­lat­ing hor­mone and insulin, exhib­ited no sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences among the three groups.

The effects of exer­cise on male repro­duc­tive func­tion are mul­ti­fac­eted, influ­enced by exer­cise inten­sity and dura­tion and indi­vid­ual fit­ness lev­els.


The results indi­cated that the unsup­ple­mented run­ners (Group 3) expe­ri­enced reduced testos­terone and luteiniz­ing hor­mone lev­els. It is known that these hor­mones decrease dur­ing intense exer­cise, and this can impact male repro­duc­tive func­tion.

The group sup­ple­mented with vir­gin olive oil (Group 2) showed the high­est lev­els of testos­terone and luteiniz­ing hor­mone, sig­ni­fy­ing the poten­tial ben­e­fits of olive oil sup­ple­men­ta­tion in enhanc­ing these hor­mones. The impact could be attrib­uted to the oil’s rich com­po­si­tion of toco­pherols and other antiox­i­dants.

Olive oil may stim­u­late testos­terone pro­duc­tion through var­i­ous mech­a­nisms, such as affect­ing cho­les­terol metab­o­lism, steroido­genic pro­teins or the pitu­itary-tes­tic­u­lar axis.

Notably, vit­a­min E, abun­dant in olive oil, also plays a role in testos­terone pro­duc­tion and tes­tic­u­lar func­tion.

Furthermore, some fatty acids and polyphe­nols in plants have been shown to pre­vent the con­ver­sion of testos­terone into dihy­drotestos­terone, adding to the com­plex­ity of how olive oil influ­ences hor­mone bal­ance.

Cortisol, a pri­mary stress hor­mone, increases with exer­cise inten­sity and dura­tion. In the study, the unsup­ple­mented run­ners showed sig­nif­i­cantly higher cor­ti­sol lev­els after the 10-week train­ing, but all val­ues remained within the ref­er­ence range.

Cortisol and testos­terone rep­re­sent the bal­ance between cata­bolic and ana­bolic processes. The sup­ple­men­ta­tion of vir­gin olive oil was asso­ci­ated with reduced cor­ti­sol lev­els, indi­cat­ing a poten­tial stress-reduc­tion effect. Improving this bal­ance can also be ben­e­fi­cial for main­tain­ing or restor­ing fer­til­ity.

These find­ings sug­gest that olive oil can play a sig­nif­i­cant role in enhanc­ing the health and per­for­mance of ath­letes and high­light the poten­tial nutri­tional and ther­a­peu­tic advan­tages of incor­po­rat­ing olive oil, a sta­ple of the Mediterranean diet, into the diets of phys­i­cally active indi­vid­u­als.

The wealth of antiox­i­dants and monoun­sat­u­rated fatty acids in extra vir­gin olive oil may con­tribute to improved hor­monal sta­tus in phys­i­cally active indi­vid­u­als.


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