Should you try Starbucks' new olive oil-infused coffee? What to know, according to an expert

The controversial drink has arrived to Canada — but many are urging caution.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 30: Starbucks advertises their new live oil-infused drinks at store in Manhattan on January 30, 2024 in New York City. The global coffee chain officially introduced its extra virgin olive oil-infused drinks on Tuesday. Named Oleato, the drinks debuted in Italy in February 2023 and arrive in stores on the same day Starbucks will report fourth-quarter earnings. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Starbucks has officially introduced its extra virgin olive oil-infused drinks to Canada. Here's what you need to know about public reactions and expert opinion. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Starbucks has officially launched its controversial drink line — the Oleato drinks with olive oil-infused coffee — to Canadian stores.

The move has caused mixed reactions, with some praising the unique flavour while many say it's making people "sh—- our pants" and dubbing it a "legit laxative."

Marketed as a "luxurious and velvety" addition to the coffee lineup, the Oleato line features coffee infused with Partanna extra virgin olive oil.

Starbucks describes Oleato as an innovative blend that aims to elevate the coffee-drinking experience. The incorporation of extra virgin olive oil adds a unique twist, promising a smooth and indulgent flavour profile. However, it's this very addition that has prompted questions about its digestive repercussions.

While olive oil is known for its health benefits, including its high content of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, its integration into coffee raised eyebrows. The line became available in the U.S. in early 2023, and prompted many to share their reactions online.

"The Oleato at Starbucks is a legit laxative," tweeted one person, while another said it was making their "stomach speak."

But why are people having bowel problems after having the Oleato drink? Yahoo Canada asked registered dietitian Abbey Sharp.

Here's what you need to know on whether or not this drink is for you.

Why are people calling the Oleato a laxative?

According to Sharp, the nickname "legit laxative" comes from the combination of coffee's inherent stimulating properties and the inclusion of extra virgin olive oil in the beverages.

"Coffee is a stimulant that can stimulate the bowels, which is why so many people describe needing to rush to the washroom after a strong coffee," Sharp said.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, coffee contains acids that are shown to boost levels of gastrin, a hormone that stimulates involuntary muscle contractions in your stomach and gets your bowels moving.

Adding olive oil to coffee is a tradition in some parts of Italy, but it's hardly a common practice. (Getty)
Adding olive oil to coffee is seen in some parts of Italy, but it's hardly a common practice. (Getty)

Sharp explained, "the olive oil in the Oleato drinks basically can exacerbate this effect by oiling up (aka lubricating) the bowels, making it easier for stool to move through."

Depending on one's baseline bowel habits, the expert warned, consuming extra virgin olive oil in coffee could lead to cramping, abdominal pain and a "truly uncomfortable extreme laxative effect."

Should I be worried about trying this drink?

"If you already have IBS-D (ie. are susceptible to diarrhea and loose stools), this would be napalm for your bowels. It would not be comfortable," Sharp cautioned.

"For folks with any gallbladder conditions, or GERD (acid reflux), I would also avoid this, as we generally want to limit high-fat foods," she advised.

This would probably be very triggering for folks with acid reflux.

She suggested that individuals without IBS or IBD, interested in trying Oleato beverages without experiencing "aggressive bathroom behaviour," should pair them with a high fibre meal.

Are there any health benefits to putting olive oil in coffee?

Despite the concerns about its potential laxative effects, Sharp acknowledged the health benefits of olive oil.

"Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants which we know have benefits for heart health, brain health, and blood sugar management," she said.

Pouring extra virgin olive oil from a vintage spoon to a glass container. Some olive branches comes from the left and right. The composition is on a rustic wooden kitchen table. Predominant colors are gold, green and brown. High resolution 42Mp studio digital capture taken with Sony A7rII and Sony FE 90mm f2.8 macro G OSS lens
Olive oil is a healthy source of fat. (Gett)

Healthline adds benefits of olive oil include:

  • heart health, including blood pressure and cholesterol

  • brain health

  • inflammation

  • joint health

There's also research suggesting coffee can lower the risk of stroke and dementia, as well as mental health benefits like reducing depression.

Would a dietitian recommend an olive oil coffee?

Sharp said while this drink wouldn't be her first choice, it might be for some.

"It's not my personal cup of tea — or coffee, I should say," Sharp admitted.

She generally recommends pairing coffee with a source of protein, such as cow or soy milk. However, she noted that for individuals practicing intermittent fasting or following a ketogenic diet, Oleato beverages could offer a way to maintain ketosis without having to drink coffee completely black.

As the drinks make their debut in Canada, consumers are advised to consider their individual health concerns and digestive sensitivities before indulging in this novel coffee experience. While some may find the combination of coffee and olive oil intriguing, others may prefer to stick with more traditional coffee options to avoid potential gastrointestinal discomfort.

Editor's note: This article was updated at 4:10 p.m. ET on Feb. 1, 2024 to reflect a change in the headline.

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