The present study was designed to evaluate the effect of olive oil and its main polyphenol (oleuropein) in ovariectomised rats with or without inflammation. Rats (6 months old) were ovariectomised or sham-operated as control. Ovariectomised rats were separated into three groups receiving different diets for 3 months: a control diet with 25 g peanut oil and 25 g rapeseed oil/kg (OVX), the control diet with 50 g olive oil/kg or the control diet with 0·15 g oleuropein/kg. The sham-operated group was given the same control diet as OVX. Inflammation was induced 3 weeks before the end of the experiment by subcutaneous injections of talc (magnesium silicate) in one-half of each group. The sucess of ovariectomy was verified at necropsy by the atrophy of uterine horns. Inflammation, oleuropein or olive oil intakes did not have any uterotrophic activity, as they had had no effect on uterus weight. The plasma concentration of α-1-acid glycoprotein (an indicator of inflammation) was increased in OVX rats with inflammation. With regard to bone variables, osteopenia in OVX was exacerbated by inflammation, as shown by a decrease in metaphyseal and total femoral mineral density. Both oleuropein and olive oil prevented this bone loss in OVX rats with inflammation. At necropsy, oleuropein and olive oil consumption had had no effect on plasma osteocalcin concentrations (marker of bone formation) or on urinary deoxypyridinoline excretion (marker of bone resorption). In conclusion, oleuropein and olive-oil feeding can prevent inflammation-induced osteopenia in OVX rats.