I was someone who believed that using olive oil to deep fry food is healthier than using something like coconut oil, that was until a friend told me that it’s not a good thing to use olive for deep frying food. 

I was intrigued, why olive oil is bad for deep frying, is it a fact, or is it just another rumor on the internet?

Therefore I decided to do some research and find a scientific explanation for this comment. 

Benefits of olive oil

First of all, olive oil is one of the healthiest oils available, it has a lot of health benefits, to name a few,

  1. Olive oil is rich in monosaturated fat
  2. They have lots of anti-oxidants
  3. Olive oil contains anti-inflammatory properties
  4. Olive oil can prevent you from getting strokes
  5. People also use olive oil on their skin for its moisturizing capability
  6. People use olive oil for their hair because it can prevent hair fall

Smoking point

I found out that every oil or fat has a smoking point, what is a smoking point? 

The smoking point is the temperature where your oil gives off bluish to blacking color smoke due to excessive heat, and when you are using any oil for cooking, you should have an idea of the smoking point.

That is because at the smoking point your oil begins to break down and start producing free radicals, and the free-radicals are bad for your health.

Free radicals, can damage your cells, causes inflammation. But ultimately, they can damage your DNA, and that will lead to the formation of cancer (carcinogenesis).

What is the smoking point of olive oil?

When it comes to olive oil the smoking point is relatively low, and it is around 190°C or 374°F for virgin olive oil, which is considered low.

However, on the other hand, the smoking point of refined olive oil is between 199-243°C or 390-470°F, which is relatively moderate.

When it comes to other popular cooking oils, the smoking point of palm oil is around 235°C or 455°F.

The smoking point of sunflower oil is 252-254°C or 486–489°F.

The smoking point of refined coconut oil is 232°C or 450°F, and in virgin coconut oil, the smoking point is 177°C or 350°F.

You can see a full list of different smoking points of oils here on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point

So when you look at other popular cooking oils, the smoking point of olive oil is quite low, therefore the chance it making free radicals is relatively higher than other cooking oils, such as sunflower oil.

That is the science behind the popular saying that you should avoid using olive oil for deep frying. As you can see, you should also avoid using oils such as virgin coconut oil.

Next time when you are frying food, try to use an oil with a higher smoking point. However, you can still use olive oil for ovening, and to prepare food that does not include deep frying.


Dr Rukshan Ranatunge is a graduate from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya (MBBS). He is currently studying for his masters in health informatics.

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