What You Need to Know About Phenols in Olive Oil

Phenols are natural compounds that are present in extra-virgin olive oil.

The three major phenols found in olive oil that give the oil its flavor profile are Oleocanthol, Hydroxytyrosol and Tyrosol.

All phenols found in olive oil exhibit significant biological effects in many diseases, participating in various cellular and biochemical processes.


Phenols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities and helps protect the body and its functions. There are over 20 different phenols found in olive oil if it is produced well.


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  1. “High Poly“ or Polyphenol measurement in caffeic equivalents – is a measurement of the 3 “phenol” molecules that are the controlling factors for the intensity of olive oil.

    Oleocanthal is the phenol most responsible for the pungency of an oil.

    These are measured to determine the sensory intensity of an oil: mild, medium or bold as well as fruitness, bitterness and pungency.

  2. Total Biophenols are the calculated in a totally different way, and has come about through advances in measurement techniques that can now denote all of the 20+ phenols found in olive oil.

    This number is the sum of the amount of each phenol found in a particular olive oil.

For example a mild oil may register it’s Polyphenol count at 181 ppm (in the method of total phenol content caffeic equivalents) while a bold oils can register the same Polyphenol count at over 300 ppm.

However, the mild oil may have a Total Biophenols of 368.2 ppm and the bold oil have a Total Biophenol of 386 ppm.

While their Total Biophenol count is very close, they are very different in intensity.

So… Polyphenol count speaks more to the sensory factors of an olive oil due to 3 prominent phenols found in olive oil.

Total Biophenol count speaks to the health: antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of an olive oil due to all phenols but does not give us a picture of the sensory components of the oil.

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