Discordances exist in epidemiological studies regarding the association between the intake of nutrients and death and disease. We evaluated the social and health profile of persons who consumed olive oil in a prospective population cohort investigation (Pizarra study) with a 6-year follow-up. A food frequency questionnaire and a 7 d quantitative questionnaire were administered to 538 persons. The type of oil used in food preparation was determined by direct measurement of the fatty acids in samples obtained from the kitchens of the participants at baseline and after follow-up for 6 years. The fatty acid composition of the serum phospholipids was used as an endogenous marker of the type of oil consumed. Total fat intake accounted for a mean 40 % of the energy (at baseline and after follow-up). The concordance in intake of MUFA over the study period was high. The fatty acid composition of the serum phospholipids was significantly associated with the type of oil consumed and with fish intake. The concentration of polar compounds and polymers, indicative of degradation, was greater in oils from the kitchens where sunflower oil or refined olive oil was used, in oils used for deep frying and in oils that had been reused for frying five times or more. Consumption of olive oil was directly associated with educational level. Part of the discordance found in epidemiological studies between diet and health may be due to the handling of oils during food preparation. The intake of olive oil is associated with other healthy habits.