Olive Oil Massage Increases Premature Infants' Weight Gain Rate

Fact checked

By Agata P. | Updated: Dec 17, 2020

Olive Oil Massage Increases Premature Infants' Weight Gain Rate
General Information
  • 01 Jan 2016
  • Iran
  • Al-Zahra Hospital
  • Jabraeile, M. et al
  • Randomized clinical trial
  • 90 premature infants
  • 10 days

Ensuring proper weight gain rate in premature infants is key for their growth and survival. As a therapeutic intervention, skin massage has been shown to have beneficial effects on babies' development after birth, including metabolism and weight gain.1

Natural oils are praised for not only being gentle on the skin, but also offering additional benefits, such as preventing dryness or infections. Being rich in fats, vitamins, and antioxidants, the oil extracted from olives is a great potential addition to therapeutic massage.

The purpose of this trial was to evaluate the effects of olive oil massage on weight gain in preterm infants.

The Study

This randomized clinical trial was performed by researchers from Tabriz University of Medical Sciences and conducted at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Al-Zahra Hospital in Tabriz, Iran.

It was carried out on 90 preterm infants that met several criteria, including being fed with breast milk and weighing between 1,000 and 1,500 grams, among others.

Infants were divided into two groups: the intervention group received olive oil massage three times a day (for a total of 15 minutes), while the control group received a massage with the same frequency, but without olive oil. the intervention lasted for 10 days.

The Results

Out of 90 enrolled infants, 86 successfully completed the trial.

The average neonatal weight gain in babies receiving olive oil massage was significantly higher than in babies receiving a massage without olive oil (21 grams vs 7 grams per day).

What Does this Mean?

This clinical trial offers two-fold benefits. First, it adds strong evidence to already existing data on the positive effects of massage on the growth and development of premature infants.

Additionally, the results of this study show that using olive oil for skin massage improves the rate of weight gain in premature babies. This validates its use as a simple and effective intervention in neonatal care units as well as during post-discharge home care.

As the most likely mechanism behind these effects, researchers point to olive oil's rich fat content that is absorbed through the infant's skin and increases calorie intake.

Other oils beneficial for therapeutic massage may be extracted from herbs such as coconut, almond, and sunflower


  • Nigerian Medical Journal, Effect of oil massage on weight gain in preterm infants: A randomized controlled clinical trial, 2016


  1. Infant Behavior and Development. (2011). Preterm Infant Massage Therapy Research: A Review. Retrieved October 1, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2844909/